Siren's Song (7/2/1997)

by Patti (email address unknown)

Chapter One

Moira Callaghan was walking home alone through darkening narrow streets of the small coastal village of Miltown Malbay humming a tune from the dance she had just left.  She was a beauty, with long dark hair inherited from her father, large blue-green eyes, a tilted little nose, and full pink lips.  She had the bloom of roses in her cheeks, and the boys all dubbed her the 'Irish Rose', both because of her coloring and because she could seem prickly at times.  She didn't really want all the masculine attention she received, and was often uncomfortable with it, which led to not a few misunderstandings.

Suddenly a sound arose unlike anything she'd ever heard before.  The lovely young woman stopped stock-still and listened in awe at the soft wailing.  Mrs. Magillacutty, who was finishing up her day's chores by feeding the many cats hovering around her cottage like they belonged to her, snorted and shook her head.

"Bloody sprite." She said in disgust.

The girl closed the distance between them and asked in awe, "Mrs. Mag, do'ya know wha' tha' is?  I've never heard th'like before."

"Aye luv, an' never will again, I'll reckon.  It's the Cliodhna." The old woman said, lowering her voice to a conspiratorial level when she said the name.

"Cliodhna?  But I thought tha' she was a myth." Moira said in surprise.

The old woman snorted again and said, "No lass, she's real alright.  My Colin saw her once when he was a lad.  Good thin' she only had eyes for another youngun, or he'da been hers, fer shure.  We village folk see thin's all th'time tha' city dwellers have convinced themselves don' exist…but they do."

As quickly as it had started the mournful sound stopped…without warning.  The older woman cackled mirthlessly.

"Caught her 'nother un.  Poor lad." She said.

A chill went up Moira's spine.  She thought about all she'd heard of Cliodhna and what she did to the young men she lured to her lair.  No one really knew what went on while the men were away, but they came back changed.  She'd read once that the sprite would use the men she captured as her sexual slaves.  Quite a seductress with a hearty sexual appetite, was the story.  However, until this night, the young woman had thought the stories simply a myth.  Moira said goodnight to the old woman, and hurried on her way home.

She had gone hardly more than an 1/8th of a mile when suddenly her legs gave out from under her.  The beauty sat in the middle of the lane trembling in weakness.  She could hardly hold her head up, and felt tears well up in her eyes.  What if she couldn't move all night?  Some wild animal might just find her and she'd be doomed.  Worse yet, what if Cliodhna found her?  What would the sprite do to an innocent young girl?  Moira began to panic.

The girl in the road was unaware of the smoldering yellow eyes that had followed her every move since she had left the dance.  The demon's malicious smile was also visible as it gazed at her, sitting helplessly in the roadway.  "And so it begins, Father" it said viciously.  Then it simply began to fade into the gathering mist.

"Moira?  Moira Callaghan, is tha' you, lass?" an older man's voice floated through the night air to her.

"Mr. O'Grady!  Yes, it's me.  I fell an' I canna get up again." She said, her voice quavering in fear and thankfulness.  The girl had never been so glad to see anyone in her young life.

The older man came rushing up and dropped the shovel he was carrying.  "Ah now, dontcha worry lassie, we'll get ya home all right 'n tight."  And with that, he scooped her up into his arms and began to carry her home.

When he strode up the walkway to Greenslea Cottage, the girl's mother came out and asked worriedly what had happened.  Moira explained that she had collapsed in the lane, but now appeared to be well again.  When the man set her feet on the floor, the latter appeared to be true.  She thanked him prettily and told her mother she was simply tired and would go to bed.  Sean O'Grady said that he was happy to be of assistance, and gazed with appreciation on mother and daughter.  The woman thanked him again and offered refreshment, but he declined.  They said goodnight.

"Too bad the widow Callaghan is still a'mournin' her dead husband.  She'd make a fine wife." He thought wistfully, as he tramped back down the lane to retrieve the shovel that he'd dropped. "And so it begins, Father."

Monsignor Taylor, the Men's Chantal Choir Director, looked up into the choir and said more sharply, "Father?  Father Philip?  PHILIP!"

The older man was becoming testy at the young priest's failure to respond.  They had already had to stop for him to explain the chorus tempo change, and now his star baritone was woolgathering when he should be singing his heart out.  This was the final dress rehearsal of their summer concert series scheduled for the following night, and Philip was his shining star.  If he couldn't rely on him to carry the others, the event was doomed.

Philip Callaghan shook his head to clear it, and said, "Oh, yes.  Of course.  Sorry.  I'm ready Monsignor." And he began to sing his solo in the rich true baritone that awed his parishioners each Sunday.

         If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown.
         If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed.
         If you stand before the pow'r of Hell and death is at your side,
         Know that I am with you through it all….

Monsignor Taylor was beaming in approbation, the priest's momentary lapse forgiven.  As the others chimed in to sing the chorus, words he knew by rote, Philip thought about the sensations he had just experienced.  Déjà vu was not nearly strong enough to explain the chill that had gone up his spine at the Monsignor's prompt 'And so it begins, Father'.

Throughout rehearsal and all that afternoon, Philip's mind went back over and over again to that instant when Monsignor Taylor had prompted him.  What did it mean?  He was certain it meant something, but he couldn't put his finger on the feeling.  It was a very troubled priest who traveled to Angel Island that evening to continue with a translation he was working on for the Luna Foundation.

When he arrived, he asked Derek for a few moments of his time.  The precept seemed surprised, but acquiesced readily.  When the two men were alone in the office, Philip confided to his friend what had happened that afternoon, and asked his opinion.

"Philip, with what little you've been able to tell me, it sounds like perhaps something from your past.  We know that you can be 'gifted' when confronted with evil, but I sense nothing particularly unusual or strange surrounding you right now."

The priest shook his head in disgust.  "I know tha' there's more to it Derek, but I can' figure out what 'tis."

The precept patted Philip on the shoulder as they walked to the door.  "Well my friend, I don't know what I can do to help you.  Let me know if you come across anything else that might be a clue.  Perhaps…no, I'm sure you wouldn't want to go that far yet."

"Perhaps?" the young man asked with raised eyebrows.

Derek grinned as he said, "I was going to suggest that you speak with Rachel.  She is the licensed Psychiatrist around here.  Maybe she could shed some light on your feelings."

"NO!  I mean, I don' think tha's necessary Derek.  I'll just think on it some more." The priest said hastily, and the older man laughed out loud at the look of panic on his friend's face.

The two men parted company in the foyer, Philip heading to the Library where the manuscript lay in wait for him and Derek out the front door.  He had a dinner appointment in town with Miranda, the curator of the Winston Rayne Hall of Antiquities to discuss a new piece that would shortly be arriving from France.

Chapter Two

Mrs. Michael Callaghan, still beautiful at 38, with bobbed hair the color of copper and eyes like emeralds sat knitting pensively in an overstuffed chair outside the room of her sleeping eldest daughter, Moira.  The girl had awakened her again early in the morning, trembling with weakness.  She knew that her daughter was quite ill.

For the past three days, ever since her daughter had been carried home in the arms of Sean O'Grady, Eileen Margaret Mary Callaghan had sensed something horrible in the offing.  Her normally serene countenance had been troubled, and she was unaware that this feeling had been communicated to her children.  They were worried about their mother and sister, but weren't quite sure what to do to help.

There was a fierce storm raging outside the cottage.  Rain pounded against the western facing windows with a vengeance.  Storms were the norm for the small coastal town in which she and her five children lived, but this one had a different feel to it, almost as if it were directed at them.  Eileen listened to the wind and the rain and was glad that they were all safe and warm inside Greenslea Cottage.

Then she remembered her wedding night, and getting to know her beloved husband intimately for the first time to the music of such a storm.  "Oh, how I miss him" she thought.  The anniversary of his death was approaching…Friday of the following week.

Michael had moved them to Miltown Malbay shortly before he had been killed in Manchester, and she just couldn't bring herself to leave.  The widow felt in her bones that to move from the cottage would sever her tenuous connection to her beloved husband, something she could not bear to do.  She could always feel his presence in the house, which gave her strength.

Her indomitable spirit and loving support from Philip, her brother-in-law, had helped the young widow get past the difficult months immediately following her husband's violent death.  She hadn't even seemed to grieve, outwardly.  Eileen's natural serenity had caused the village people to look askance on her in the wake of Michael's death.   They didn't know her well enough to tell how stricken she was by her loss.  Only she and Philip knew how deeply she had grieved for the only man she had ever loved.  The young mother had hidden her grief even from her children with true Celtic stoicism.

Eileen Brannigan, as she was before her marriage, had met Michael James Fitzgerald Callaghan in college.  It had been love at first sight for them both.  He was two years her senior and she had been flattered when he noticed her.  His dark good looks had attracted her, but it was truly his giving, gentle and honest nature which made it apparent to her by their second date that she couldn't live without him.

After three months, Michael had asked her to become his wife, and she accepted with an alacrity that would have made her mother cringe.  However, the two had never regretted their hasty union, joined in spirit as few couples ever have the fortune to be.  She had sensed his passing even before the police came to tell her of his death, just as she now sensed him guarding over them in the house where he had so briefly lived.

"Mama, wha's tha' noise?" four year old Brian, her youngest asked, interrupting his mother's reminiscent thoughts.

Eileen smiled at him absently and replied that it was just the wind.  Then even as the words left her lips, she heard it.  An unnatural penetrating cry.  Whatever the beast, it sounded like it was in utter agony…like a soul in torment.  The woman stood and went into the hall, followed by her son.  As they walked down the short flight of stairs, three children emerged from various parts of the house.  They had heard the wailing as well.

The five walked to the door consumed with a nervous curiosity.  Eileen opened it and instinctively she and the two oldest children crossed themselves, saying a fervent prayer.  Six-year-old Megan and baby Brian just stood as close to their mother as they possibly could, more frightened than they had ever been.

A horrifying sight greeted their eyes.  On the roof of the shed stood an apparition, dressed in a hooded, black tattered and flowing robe.  There was a dark void where the face should have been, and from that blackness came a cry like nothing they had ever heard before, and Eileen prayed that they never would again.  She realized that she was reciting the Lord's Prayer under her breath.

"Mama!" Brian cried and threw his arms around her legs, burying his little face in her thigh.

Eileen reached down automatically and picked up the frightened little boy.  Even as she did so, she heard her daughter call from the hallway above them.

"Mother?  Where are you?" Moira called, her voice weak.

The older woman turned and looked up at her daughter, so pale in her illness.  The girl didn't seem to be aware of the noise echoing through the house, which seemed to crescendo at her appearance on the stairs.  When Eileen turned back to pull the other children from the doorway so she could close the door, she noticed that the wraith was gone…and with it the noise.

"Moira!  What're ye doin' outta bed?" she asked, a viselike fear of unknown origin gripping her heart.  Hurriedly closing the door and ushering her offspring away from the windows.

"I needed more water, but when I called you didn’a answer." Her daughter said.

Eileen knew that there was something about the situation that was familiar to her, but what it was eluded her.  She shook her head in frustration, sent Kate off to get her sister some more water from the kitchen, and mounted the stairs to help Moira back to her bed.

"Wha' were y'all doin' in th'doorway?" the seventeen-year-old girl asked, curious.

Her mother turned and gave her a sharp look.  It was obvious that the girl hadn't heard or seen a thing. Later that evening, Eileen put Megan and Brian to bed early.  They'd had a traumatic day, and were exhausted.  She left 14-year old Pip in charge of his sisters…Moira, who was sleeping and nine-year old Kathleen.  After putting the young ones to bed, she was settling down to play monopoly with her two middle children when suddenly they heard the wailing again.

Brian and Megan came flying down the stairs screaming in fright.  It appeared that the wraith was right outside the northern windows, the bedrooms.  Moira's room was the closest, and so Eileen told Kate to keep the two babes with her and took Pip to investigate.  When they got to Moira's room the two were totally shocked.

The wraith was hovering directly outside the ill girl's window, pointing to where she lay sound asleep on the bed.  The noise was deafening, and neither mother nor son could understand at first why Moira didn't waken.  Then the seed of recognition was born in on Eileen.  She let out a tortured cry, and ran to the window to close the drapes.  Her cry awakened her daughter and the boy just stood looking down at his sister with a heavy heart.  Even he had heard tales of the banshee.

"Mama, wha's wrong?" the sleepy girl asked from the bed.

Eileen hurried over to reassure her beloved first born.  "Nothin' love.  You jus' go back t'sleep now.  Everythin'll be alright, you'll see."

The girl smiled sleepily and kissed her mother's cheek.  Young Philip's heart constricted in fear at the thought of what they had witnessed.  Eileen rose, and motioned for her son to precede her from the room.  When they were outside in the parlor, she spoke of what they had seen for the first time.

"Oh my darlin', you know wha' we jus' saw, dontcha?" she asked as she looked upon his ashen face.  She wrapped her arms around him.

He pulled sharply out of her arms and said, "Mama, why Moira?  Why is God doin' all this t'us?! First papa, and now her?  I's jus' no' fair!!!"

He was more angry than she could ever remember seeing her son.  What she didn't realize was that his anger was nothing more than a front for his fear, which he refused to allow her to see.

"Philip Michael Patrick Callaghan!!!  You know better than tha!  God had NOTHIN' t'do wi your father's death!" she said, urgently.

"But mama, he let it happen.  He didn't stop it!" the boy said harshly, willing his mother to understand his questioning of a just and caring God.

Eileen sighed.  "I know love, but God's plan's his own.  It's no our place t'doubt or question him, you understan'?" she asked the question harshly, afraid that her son would turn away from the faith that was such an integral part of their very lives.

The boy nodded reluctantly and she hugged him again then said, "I'm goin'ta call your Uncle Philip.  As much as I rely on you my son, we need a man here right now.  Is tha' alright with you?"

At fourteen, young Pip was quite mature.  He had taken over as her right hand when Michael had died and Philip, the boy's namesake and Godfather, had been forced to return to San Francisco and his clerical life.  Her son's place as the 'man of the house' was not to be questioned, but she felt the need to have her brother-in-law's counsel over the situation, as well as his shoulder to cry on if and when the worst happened.

She had considered sending all the children off to stay with her sister in Belfast, or even her brother in Donegal, but she realized that to do so would be unfair.  If something should happen to Moira, they would never forgive her for not allowing them to stay.  So she settled for asking her son's permission to bring in his favorite uncle.

"Oh yes mama!  Do you think he'll come?" the young boy's eyes sparkled at the thought that someone, especially his favorite uncle, would be relieving him of his burden…for a while at least.  Not to mention that they had all missed Philip deeply when he had left.

Eileen hugged her son hard.  "I'll make sure o'it!" she said confidently.

They decided it would be best to keep what they had seen to themselves, and so told the three youngest children that it had been a ghost, but it was gone for the time being at least.  Since they had grown up amidst all the fairy tales and ghosts which abound in Irish History, the children were comfortable with the explanation.  Eileen only hoped that she could maintain the pretense that everything was fine.

Chapter Three

The telephone rang, echoing sharply through the empty hall.  It was three o'clock in the morning and Dominick hurried to pick it up before the sound awakened his employer.  He, himself, suffered from insomnia and was sitting in the library reading a book, when he heard it.  The domestic knew that Derek Rayne was an extremely light sleeper, and had no real hope of stopping the inevitable, but he tried.

"Hello, Luna Foundation.  May I be of assistance." He said formally into the mouthpiece.

A woman's voice, lilting with her thick Irish brogue greeted his ear on the other end.  "Saints Preserve Us, I finally go'through.  Um, yes well I hope ye can help me.  I'm tryin' t'reach Father Philip Callaghan."

Dominick almost chuckled aloud.  "As if I couldn't guess." he thought.

He knew that the young priest was asleep upstairs because he had heard Derek tell Nick to make sure to wake Philip when he went out for his morning run.   The Father had arrived early in the evening to continue his work on a particularly difficult translation, and he had finished around 9:30.  He would need to return to his parish at Saint Patrick's in the morning for daily mass.

All these things ran through the domestic's mind, along with a question of who might have given Mrs. Callaghan the Luna Foundation phone number, but aloud he only said, "Well madam, the Father is currently asleep.  Should I wake him?  And whom may I say is calling?"

"I'm Eileen Callaghan, his sister-in-law.  I need t'speak wi' him on urgent family business, so if ye'd be s'kind as t'get him, I'd appreciate it."  She sounded near tears.

The major-domo noticed the quaver in her voice and hoped that nothing dreadful had happened.  He knew from things that he overheard the others say, as well as his own sharp perception of the young man, that Philip was still recovering from the death of his brother.

"Very good ma'am." He started to say, and remembered how difficult his sister had found it financially after her husband had been killed in a car accident.  "Perhaps I can wake him and have him call you back immediately, would that be alright?" he asked.

Her voice sounded full of relief when she responded that it would be wonderful.  Dominick said that he would go waken Philip right then, and would have him call within the half-hour.  Then they both hung up.

"Who was it Dominick?" the voice of his employer sounded softly from the direction of the stairs.

"Ah, Dr. Rayne.  That was Eileen Callaghan calling for Father Philip.  I told her I would waken him and have him return her call.  Something of a family nature I believe." the domestic said.

"Eileen called for Philip?  Oh no.  I hope it's nothing serious." Derek responded.  "That's all right Dominick, you go back to bed.  I'll go get him up."

In his concern for his young friend, the precept had overlooked the fact that the servant would never have heard the phone ringing from his sleeping quarters at the far end of the house.  However, Dominick made no effort to explain the situation to his employer as he rushed away down the hall to Philip's room.  He simply headed for the morning room and started a pot of strong black coffee.  The older man had spotted Nick and Philip earlier playing chess, and it had seemed that they were quite inebriated by the amount of laughter he heard.  He knew that Derek would have a difficult time in waking the young priest. "Philip, wake up!" Derek's voice was starting to show signs of irritation at his friend's continued deep sleep.  He'd been trying for ten minutes to waken the young Irishman.  Obviously he and Nick had hit the stout a bit hard earlier that evening.

The young man in the bed began tossing restlessly and moaning.  "Michael…over here!  Can'tcha hear us?  C'mon…please talk t'me!  I'm sorry I never…." he cried softly in his sleep.  "Mi…." his voice drifted off again on the single syllable.

Derek was concerned by the fact that Philip was apparently having another dream about his brother.  It had been almost two years since an IRA bomb had taken the life of Michael Callaghan and the young girl he had been trying to help.  However, the fact that the priest was still having dreams about him told the older man that he was far from over his brother's sudden death.

"PHILIP!" he said more loudly than before, and shook him gently.

"W-w-w-wha'?" a sleepy Irish lilt greeted his ears.

Derek sighed.  "Finally!  Wake UP!" he said, louder this time.

Suddenly Philip sat bolt upright in bed.  "Derek!  Wha's goin' on?  What are you doin' here in ma room?" he asked, perplexed and not a little groggy.

Dominick had arrived with a steaming cup of coffee several minutes earlier, and then headed for bed.  The older man shoved the cup into his friend's hand and said more sharply than he had intended, "Get up.  Eileen called about 20 minutes ago!  She needs to speak with you."

The sleepy young man had been in the process of taking a drink of the coffee handed to him when he heard Derek's statement.  He set the cup down on the night table and swallowed the scalding liquid too quickly.  It burned all the way down his throat.  When he could speak, he asked in a voice wide awake and filled with dread, "Eileen?  She called here?"

He was running his hands through his hair distractedly, thinking furiously.  "Michael?  Moira!  Oh God, no!  Not Moira!" he said, barely above a whisper.

"Yes Eileen, and she's waiting for you to return her call.  Moira?  Philip, what's wrong?" the older man asked when he noticed how pale his friend looked.

"Uh, I'm not sure.  Maybe nothin'.  I'll tell you later.  Right now, I guess I'd better call my sister-in-law.  Thanks Derek." He said, hurriedly shooing Derek out of the room, and grabbed his phone book.

He looked at the book with sadness.  He had never bothered to memorize his brother's phone number, because they moved about once a year.  At least that's the way it seemed to the priest, who stayed in one place as long as he was able.  He looked up the number, and his heart gave a jolt of pain at the entry.

          Michael and Eileen Callaghan
           (Moira, Philip, Kathleen, Megan and Brian)
          Greenslea Cottage
          Miltown Malbay, County Clare, Ireland

He had never found the strength to line through his brother's name.  "Oh Michael…" he said softly, then shook himself mentally and picked up the phone on his desk.  He dialed the number and before the second ring, a woman's voice answered.

"Philip?  Is tha' you?  Well, thank th'Good Lord an' about time too!" Eileen asked.

He thought she sounded more upset than she had when he'd finally gotten hold of her after word reached him at the Monastery of Michael's death.

"Eileen?  Hello love.  I'm sorry it took so long t'get back t'ya.  Derek had th'devil of a time wakin' me up.  Too much stout, I guess." Philip said trying to somehow lighten her mood.

His sister-in-law laughed mildly, but he could tell he hadn't diverted her mind one bit.  She was silent for a moment and he didn't intrude on her thoughts.  They were both thinking of the last time he'd had to call her in the middle of the night.

Finally she spoke, and he could tell she'd been crying.  Her voice was still raw and quavered a little.  "Oh Pip, it's so good t'hear yer voice.  I've missed you so much since ya went back across.  Aye, an' so've the wee ones..." her voice broke on a sob at the last word.

The priest knew instantly how terribly upset she was from her first words.  He had ceased to be 'Pip' to her when their second child was born and they insisted on naming it after him.  Two Philips in the family was very confusing, especially since it was a name that did not readily lend itself to nicknames.  Not to mention the fact that both were so much alike, and didn't care to be teased much.  So he became 'Philip' as the oldest and the child was 'Pip'.

"It's Moira, isn't it?  Somethin's happened t'her, hasn't it?" he asked and was greeted with silence on the other end of the line for what seemed like ages.

Just when he was ready to break the silence for her and tell her he was getting on the next flight over, she said with awe, "How'd ya know?  Tha's amazin'!  You really surprise me sometimes, laddie!"

He sighed deeply and said, "Well, just as Derek was tryin' t'wake me, I was dreamin' o'Michael and Moira playin' t'gether in a grassy field.  You an' I were standin' off t'the side, but we couldna make 'em hear us.  Tell me.  Wha' happened 'Leenie?"

"Uh, well nothin' yet…but it's comin'.  I know now tha' it's comin', an' I'm tha' scared Philip.  I need you!  Can ye get away from th'Loona Foundashun fer a wee bit?" she asked hesitantly.

"You know I can…and I will.  I'll be on the next flight outta here, but I need t'know more before I get on th'plane an' worry myself sick.  What's goin' on love?  Can you tell me wha' makes you think tha' somethin's goin' t'happen t'Moira?  Maybe it's somethin' we can prevent." he said gently probing for more information.

Eileen was silent for a moment then said, "You'll think I'm goin' nuts, Philip."

The young Irishman laughed at that and said, "So wha's so special about tha'?  I've thought ye were nuts since you married m'brother nearly 18 years ago now."

The voice on the other end sighed.  "I'm serious Philip Callaghan.  I don' know if I even believe it." she said.

"Try me, 'Leenie." was all he said.

Another sigh and then a nervous laugh.  "Okay." She paused as if trying to put her reasons into words.  Philip wished he could help her, but when she finally spoke, her words were the last ones he expected to hear from his rational, levelheaded sister-in-law.

"It was the bansheite." she pronounced the word in Gaelic.

She had said the word so matter of factly, that Philip had to ask her to repeat herself.  "Come again?" he said, dubiously.

"Well o'all the thickheaded dolts…y'got cotton in yer ears?  I SAID 'twas the banshee!"

He was speechless.   Questions were flying around in his mind.  The bansheite?  That was just an old wives tale, wasn't it?  Could there possibly exist a spirit who would foretell death to one's loved ones?  And if there was, why didn't he see it when Michael had been killed?  He realized that his sister-in-law had been saying "I told you so" for quite a few moments.

"Uh, Eileen.  Wait a minute, love.  I didna say I didn' believe you.  Actually, after all I've seen in the past few years, tha' particular legend is a wee bit tame.  Didya see th'thin' or didya just hear it?" he asked, after assuring her of his belief.

"Well, 'twas here earlier this afternoon, but I didn' know then tha's what 'twas.  Then this evenin' after I put Megan an' Brian t'bed, we all heard it again…all o'us except Moira." she said, and her voice dropped to a whisper as she spoke the last four words.  "Pip, 'twas right outside her window a pointin' an' wailin' enough t'wake th'dead, an' she didna even stir!"

"All right, I'm on ma way.  I can't tell ya when I'll be there, but it'll be as soon as I can, okay?" he was already calculating in his mind just how long it would take him to get there by plane.

His sister-in-law's voice actually broke on a sob when she said, "Oh Philip, I love ya.  Ya know tha' I'da never gotten through losin' Michael without ya.  How are we goin' t'handle losin' Moira too, Pip?"

The young priest said a silent prayer that they wouldn't have to find out anytime soon, and said aloud, "Now don' you worry about that right now.  We'll cross tha' bridge when we come t'it."

Chapter Four (MISSING)

Chapter Five (MISSING)

Chapter Six (Warning this section contains sexually explicit material!)

The handsome young man opened his eyes slowly.  His head was pounding and he was sweating profusely.  It wasn't excessively warm in the room, so he figured that it was a residual effect of whatever drug had been used to sedate him.  Philip just assumed that someone had drugged him.  He was unaware that he had traveled there of his own volition, since he couldn't remember anything that happened prior to his waking up.

He surveyed his 'cell' with suspicion.  It was a large bedroom, similar to the one he occupied at the Legacy House, but far more opulent.  There was the mahogany four poster bed he was lying on with matching mahogany furniture.  An armoire, a dresser, and two end tables with tiffany lamps.  A serpentine marble fireplace was built into the wall opposite the bed, and French doors covered with lace curtains led to what was probably a patio outside.

Philip looked down at himself and was horrified.  He was lying on top of a silk coverlet with a sheet draped negligently across his torso and thighs.  His hands and feet were restrained by silken ropes, which were tied to the four posts of the bed.  However, the thing that disturbed him the most was the fact that he could tell he was completely nude beneath the sheet.  His body glistened with a fine layer of perspiration.

The door opened and he felt a light ocean breeze flow through the room and run over his sweaty body.  He shivered with cold and something else.  Not fear exactly, but nervousness.  A woman appeared in the open doorway.  She was tall, svelte and was wearing a gown that was made of a material so fine and silky that it appeared almost transparent.  Her hair was long and dark.  And her eyes were the most unusual color he had ever seen.  A cross between gold and green.

As she walked into the room he noticed that her movements were lithely graceful, like a feline.  He also noted that she looked at him with a penetrating stare, and suddenly he was reminded of a documentary he had seen once about leopards and the way they stalk their prey.  He felt trapped beneath her gaze.

"Uh…W-w-who are you, an' what am I d-d-doin' here?" he asked, not expecting to receive an answer.

"Shhhhh." She said placing a finger to her lips, and continued moving toward the bed.

He felt extremely vulnerable and exposed beneath her gaze.  When she stood beside the bed, she reached down and ran her hand down the sheet covering his chest until it rested on his abdomen.   The young priest gasped at the sensations she evoked and his muscles tensed where her fingers rested.

Suddenly, she pulled the sheet away, and he blushed at her look.  She sat down on the bed next to him and devoured him with her eyes.  He saw her gaze linger on his manhood, and was filled with nervousness.  He sensed what she was planning to do, and he pulled on the bonds at his wrists, but to no avail.  She licked her lips and smiled at him seductively.

"You are so beautiful, my dear." She said admiringly, stroking first his face, then his arms and finally his chest.  She leaned down and kissed him full on the lips.  Hers were moist and hot, and her tongue darted into his mouth mingling with his own.

He tried to concentrate on the prayer he was saying in his mind, but it was becoming more difficult as she continued with the assault on his senses.  She broke the kiss and ran her tongue down his neck and chest to play with his right nipple.  Then she began worrying it with her teeth just enough to arouse him to passion.  The young Irishman suppressed a groan.

"No…please…don't…uh…do this…" he said, looking up at her pleadingly.  She placed her fingers over his mouth to stop his plea, then began to run them seductively around his lips, even going so far as to insert one completely inside and draw it slowly back out, grazing his teeth.

When she spoke, it was barely more than a whisper.  "As much as I would love to hear you beg for mercy my sweet, I must tell you that it's useless.  However, don't worry, I won't hurt you Philip.  In fact, I think I can promise you that I won't do anything you don't want me to do." And she smiled at him in an extremely predatory way.

Her words caught his attention.  "You…you know my name?" he said, his voice raw with suppressed emotion.

He knew that his flesh was weak…far weaker than his spirit, and he was sorely afraid that he wouldn't be able to withstand the temptation.  She was so very beautiful, and it had been such a long time since he had known a woman.  Well…that was if he didn't count his recurring dreams with Briony.

Oh Lord, those dreams!  "I mustn' think o'those now!" he thought.  He sensed his growing desire and knew he had to find a way to stop her.  He was determined to keep her talking as long as possible.  However, the beauty at his side had other ideas.

She smiled a little wider and bent to his ear.  "Oh yes…I've been waiting for this day for quite some time now." she whispered, and he felt her tongue licking his ear.  Her hands were stroking his torso and thighs.  She began to kiss his neck, running her tongue along his very sensitive jaw line.  He shivered again, only this time it was caused by his physical needs.  He felt himself losing control.

"Oh God, give me strength!" he prayed silently.  As soon as the thought was complete, he heard her laugh softly in his hair.

"Strength?  Strength is very good Philip.  I like strength.  Or were you asking for him to save you from me?" she leaned back and looked down at him archly.

"Wh-wh-what?" he asked, shocked that she could read his thoughts so easily.  "Who are you?" he asked her again, only this time with more determination.

"That is completely unimportant at the moment.  What is of the utmost concern is this."

She reached down and stroked his stomach, using her tongue on the tingling path left by her fingers.  She continued to brush her fingers against his tortured flesh, and felt him trembling violently beneath her hands.  Her laugh was one of power.  She raked her nails across his nipples softly.  He gasped in unwanted pleasure.

"You want me don't you Philip?" she asked softly in his ear, one hand playing in the curls at the nape of his neck, the other rubbing circles on his chest and stomach.

Her tongue slipped into his ear and he felt himself succumbing to her seduction.  He couldn't get away from her hands, lips and tongue.  He felt a finger trailing down his torso, past his abdomen.  It stopped to toy in the hair at his groin before moving on down his inner thigh and beginning the trip back up.  His whole body felt like it was on fire, every nerve ending screaming for more.

"NO!" he yelled at the top of his lungs.  Even as the word left his lips, he cringed, knowing it for the lie it was.  "Yes!" he said in a tortured whisper, as if the admission had been ripped from him.

"God…Please Help Me!" he cried and squeezed his eyes shut against the vision of her leaning over him, her naked form entirely visible through the filmy material she wore.

Her laughter filled the room and it sounded victorious.  She looked down at him, an unholy light in her eyes and bared her perfect white teeth.  He suddenly knew that there was truly no hope.  That he could never withstand this seductress.  Whoever she was, he was as putty in her hands.  He resigned himself to whatever was to come, and said a prayer to God asking him for forgiveness for what was about to happen.

When her laughter subsided, she bent her head and returned to her torturous exploration of his body.  She stood, pulled her gown up around her thighs and climbed between his legs.  Her long silky hair brushed against his naked chest and abdomen, causing his muscles to tighten and he bit his lower lip in frustration.  When her lips and tongue touched his groin he could no longer remain silent.

He cried out, "Oh, Sweet Jesus!" and threw his head back, eyes tight shut.

He suddenly remembered the last time he had experienced similar sensations.  It was the night Briony had come to him in his dreams…the dreams that were more than dreams.  After their initial fevered union she had allowed him to rest for a brief period, then she had made love to him again, much more slowly the second time.

She had taken him to a place that he had never even known existed until that exquisite moment.  Her lips, hands and tongue had teased him to the point of breaking.  It was a wonder that his feral screams hadn't wakened the entire household that night.  In the end he had grabbed her roughly, pulling her beneath him and entered her.  It was the most erotic bout of lovemaking they had ever had.

"Tsk tsk, Philip.  That's not very flattering.  Thinking of your past love at a time like this.  However, if you would like to take charge?  Ah…no, I don't think I can yet trust you." The woman hovering above him said amusedly.

His eyes flew open and he looked up at her.  She grinned.  She had accomplished her design, causing him to return to the present.  This woman was determined, and she would not allow his mind to wander from the pleasure she wanted him to feel.

Her lips brushed his abdomen again and he groaned aloud as he felt her take him in her hand.  He couldn't control his reactions anymore and began to writhe beneath her crying out softly for her to stop torturing him and finish it.  This excited the woman no end.  She threw back her head and laughed as she rubbed him with her hand, thighs and breasts.  Teasing him.  He was straining against the bonds that held him, but they remained tied fast.

She took him in her mouth and he cried out again, screaming without restraint.  "Oh…my…GOD!   YEEEESSSSS!!!"

The young priest was beyond caring who heard him.  The creature between his thighs was skilled in the art of seduction and brought him right to the brink of climax.   Just when he thought he would explode in her mouth, she pulled away and mounted him.  He was lost in a world of desire and passion, oblivious to everything but the feel of her enveloping him.

They moved with the rhythm of the ages.  He cried out with abandon,  "Harder…harder… HARDER!   Oh God…don' stop!!!"

She met him time and time again, and soon they both exploded with cries of ultimate pleasure, as they reached the pinnacle of their orgasms, Philip first followed by the woman moments later.  She collapsed on top of him, without pulling away.

Tears coursed down Philip's face in remorse for what had just happened.  He knew he had been powerless to stop it, but the pain came from deep down within.  He felt that he was tainted again, just like he had been with Ellen.  Only this time he had enjoyed it far more.

"Oh My Lord God!  Please forgive me!" he cried, his voice filled with the agony bursting from his very soul, then in a tortured whisper,  "Briony!!!  My love…my darlin' I'm so sorry!"

The woman lying on top of him raised her head and looked down into his eyes.  Hers were filled with venom.  She climbed off him and gathered her gown around her as if to gather her strength.  Her words baffled and confused the young priest at first.

"Oh I am certain that your God will forgive you, Philip.  Unfortunately, I realize now that you never really allowed yourself to participate…Damn you!  You may have experienced the pleasure, but if you hadn't been bound, you would have run from me even to the end, and for that I should hate you." She said in fury.

He realized the truth of her words, and smiled for the first time.  "You're right.  I woulda done.  I wanted no part o'your seduction, but I had no choice.  In the words of our Lord, you milady have reaped what you sewed." He replied, suddenly feeling much better as her words sunk in.  He really hadn't enjoyed it.  Only that part of him, which could react no other way, had reveled in the carnal sensations she had aroused.

Then a thought occurred to him and he asked, "You keep usin' my name.  Who are you an' how d'you know me?"

The angry beauty standing next to the bed looked to be in better humor after his question.  As she spoke, he was filled with revulsion and realized why she looked so gratified to tell him.

"I am Cliodhna…I feed on the carnal desires of men.  I have watched you for a long time Philip, and grieved at your devotion to that archaic, obsolete institution you call a church.  An old friend of yours, Iuvart, promised me that one-day you would be mine, and here you are!  You see…he always keeps his promises…and I always get what I want!" she laughed harshly.

"Cliodhna?  Tha's impossible!  She's nothin' more than a myth!" he said vehemently.

The creature standing over him threw back her head and laughed maliciously.  "Do I look like a myth?  Did I feel like a myth just now?  No Philip, I am NO myth.  I'm as real as I need to be to achieve my ends." And she began to change before his very eyes.  Soon the face of his beloved Briony was gazing down upon him.

"Is this the woman you want me to be Philip?  I can be anyone or anything you wish for." she whispered in his ear.

"No!  Oh, Sweet Jesus, Mary and Joseph!!!" he said, and would have crossed himself if his arms had been free.

Philip felt more nauseous than he could ever remember being.  He couldn't believe it…but looking up at the face of the woman he loved radiating evil and gratification, he knew it was true.  The young priest had just been raped by Cliodhna, an ancient Irish sprite, and now she stood gloating over him.

"Or how about this one?" she asked gleefully, and began to change again.  Ellen.

The young man tied to the bed closed his eyes and prayed for the whole thing to be a horrendous nightmare, but then he felt her lips and hands on him once again and his eyes flew open.

"Oh God, NOOOOOO!!!" he cried out, horrified.  Her face was inches from his.  She leaned forward and kissed him deeply.  It was Eileen.

The spirit laughed softly after breaking away from the kiss.  "You know you want her Philip.  You want her so badly you can taste it.  You always have.  I read it in your mind.  You've been ashamed, but you need not be.  I believe her to be attracted to you as well."

Cliodhna felt the strongest desire for him she could ever remember feeling towards any human male.  The fact that he was a Catholic priest, and therefore celibate by choice, added to the excitement.  However, it wasn't the underlying reason for her desire.  She just knew he was special, and she wanted him to come to her of his own volition.  However, she realized that it wasn't going to happen that way so she satisfied herself for the moment with torturing him.

She seduced him again slowly building his passion and driving him mad with her teasing hands and lips.  She retained the form of his sister-in-law, and gloried in his passionate screams.  After she had reduced him to tears, leaving him weak and panting, she went away.

Philip was filled with disgust at his own weakness.  He had responded to her without even wanting to, simply because the form she had taken excited him more than he had thought possible.  It was horrible.  He would never be able to look at his sister-in-law again without agony in his heart.  His physical attraction to Eileen was one secret he had thought safe from everyone.  Even Briony hadn't mentioned it.

The young priest knew, deep down, that it was truly natural.  She was beautiful, and she treated him with familiarity, which few women ever did.  They were family after all.  He also knew in his heart that contrary to what the sprite had said, he had never really wanted to make love to her.  It would be a betrayal of his brother and Eileen herself, not to mention God.  However, when Cliodhna had taken her form and seduced him, he had been helpless.  He was filled with despair.

Then he began to think about everything the sprite had said.  Wait!  She had mentioned Iuvart.  Could this be a hoax perpetrated by the demon to break his spirit?  As he lay there thinking furiously, other details began to surface in his mind.  Eileen had called him in San Francisco.  She and the children had seen and heard the Banshee.  Moira had what the doctor called a disintegration of her neural system, but wasn't able to determine from whence it originated.  She was 17 and dying.

"IUVART!!!  Damn you to Hell!" he said between clenched teeth.  He suddenly knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the demon was behind Moira's illness.  It had been a ploy to lure him back to Ireland. In San Francisco, Alex woke up breathing very quickly and covered in a cold sweat.  She had just had a very disturbing dream.  In it, she felt that Philip was being tortured.  She assumed this, because she could hear his cries.  She saw visions of a wraith without a face, a young girl in the first blush of youth, a boy, Briony, and a woman with long red hair.  The images were crowded one on top of another in her mind and she couldn't make sense of them.  The only thing she was certain of was that Philip was in trouble.

She also felt incredibly horny.   Why this was she wasn't sure, but she suspected it had to do with the dream she just had.  She was too aroused to go back to sleep, so she picked up the phone and began to dial Brendan's number.   She hoped that he was home.

There was a light knock at her door.  She hung up the phone, got out of bed and padded on bare feet across the room to open it.  Derek stood in his dark green silk pajamas in her doorway.  When she opened the door, he walked straight into the center of the room, scanned it, and then turned to face her.

"Are you alright?" he asked with concern.

Alex was surprised at his appearance in her room.  He had never intruded upon her privacy before.  She noticed that he wasn't even wearing his dressing gown.  "He must have raced here from his room in a panic." she thought, slightly amused.

"Uh…yes.  I'm fine, why?" she said aloud, still puzzled.

He walked over and pulled her to him and buried his face in her hair.  She put her arms around him naturally and they stood clasped in each other's arms for several minutes without speaking.  Finally, he stepped back and looked down into her face.  He cupped it in his large graceful hands, then bent and kissed her gently on the lips.

Alex started to giggle.  "Derek.  What is this?  Why are you here?  I mean, don't get me wrong…I like it, but this just isn't like you."

He smiled down at her and said, "Well, I just had a dream that you were in some sort of trouble.  It didn't feel dangerous exactly, just…uh…well, very disturbing.  Very erotic…." He said the last so softly she had to strain to hear him.  His grin was sheepish, and she knew that he had felt the same reactions after waking that she did herself.

She sighed.  His smile faded as she told him about her dream and the vague feeling that Philip was in danger.  He told her that her dream was very closely related to the reasons that their friend had been called to Ireland.  Derek didn't seem concerned for Philip's safety, only his emotional well being and Alex agreed that her feelings could have had that connotation too.  He told her he suspected that returning to Ireland had brought with it memories of Briony along with Philip's current troubles.  They decided that the precept had actually picked up her vibes during her dream about Philip.

With that out of the way, suddenly the intimacy of their situation was uppermost in both of their minds.  As Alex moved to step away from Derek, he tightened his grip on her.  She looked up at him in surprise and he shocked her even further by kissing her again, only this time the kiss was one of ignited passion.  With a fleeting thought for Brendan, she responded in kind.

Pajamas were disposed of, and he guided her gently back to her bed.  Derek caressed her softly and reveled in the vision of her under him, hair streaming over her pillows.  Her skin was like silk, and he couldn't believe he had waited so long to make this happen.  Alex, for her part, had dreamed of this moment since she had first set eyes on him, her first day in his class at the University.

Suddenly, she thought of Brendan.  He was so sweet and loving.  How could she do this to him?  Then again, he knew about her situation with Derek.  It shouldn't come as a surprise to him that they had been unable to avoid the inevitable.  Besides, it wasn't as if Bren and she had an exclusive relationship.  She knew that he dated other women.  Of course, he hadn't slept with any of them as yet.  However, that didn't preclude it ever happening.  "No, I refuse to feel guilty about this." she thought to herself, and resolutely put all thoughts of her other beau out of her mind.

She reached up and pulled his lips to hers, rolling them over so that she was on top.  Derek was pleasantly shocked by her taking control.  Soon he was unable to think at all, only feel as her passion consumed them both. Across the hall, Sydney awoke covered in a fine layer of perspiration.  She was disoriented for a moment, not recognizing the room.  Then she remembered where she was.  She sat up on the side of the bed and reached for the glass of water sitting on the nightstand.  After taking a sip, she rose and walked to the window.  Even though she could remember nothing about the dream that had awakened her, the feelings it had evoked were not easy to shake off.  She stood looking out at the bay and the distant Golden Gate Bridge, so beautiful at night, and tried to remember what she had seen in her dream that was so unsettling.  She couldn't seem to remember any details, only sensations.  The predominant of which was burning desire.  Suddenly she felt hands on her arms, and she jumped.

"Hey!  It's just me.  I rolled over, and you weren't in bed.  Why so jumpy?" Nick asked softly in her ear, as she realized it was he and relaxed back against him.

"You just surprised me, that's all." she replied.

He chuckled softly and nibbled on her earlobe, then the nape of her neck sending chills down her spine.  "Well, I can think of other ways I'd like to surprise you" he said as he slid his hands down her arms seductively and circled her waist.

He turned her around to face him and pulled her so close she could feel him hard between her thighs.  The desire that was burning beneath the surface suddenly surged up within her.  She reached up, grabbed the back of his head and pulled his lips down to hers.

Nick was surprised at the aggressiveness of her kiss, but decided to allow her full rein.  In the past couple of months, they had learned much about the art of lovemaking from each other.  If someone had told him six months ago that an untried virgin would have anything to teach him about passion, he'd have laughed in their face.  However, the woman in his arms had surprised him again and again, and had taught him some very important lessons in love.

Sydney was obviously in command of the situation now, pushing him back against the side of the bed and climbing on top of him when his knees buckled and he fell backwards.  She'd never reacted to him in quite this manner before, and Nick found it unimaginably erotic.

Before long he was lying next to her in bed, they were both limp and panting.  He couldn't believe what she had done to him.  Her hands, lips and tongue had teased him until he didn't think he could take anymore.  Then she had ridden him long and hard.  It was unlike anything he'd ever experienced before.  He put his arms around her and drew her close.

"Syd…uh, where'd you learn how to do that?" he asked in awe when he could speak again.

She shivered in his arms and whispered,  "Shhh.  Did you hear that?"

"What?" he asked softly.

"Uh, I don't know exactly.  It sounded like it came from across the hall.  Bren isn't here, is he?" she asked mischievously.

Nick laughed softly.  "Well, I didn't see him earlier, but that doesn't mean anything.  Anyway, we were talking about you, I believe, and your uncanny ability to…uh…do what you did to me tonight.  Where'd you learn it?"

The young woman in his arms snuggled closer and said, "I'm not sure.  Was it that unusual?" she asked smiling.

"Well, I've never experienced anything like it before…and since you haven't been with anybody but me…." His voice trailed off, letting her make what she would of the statement.

"I see what you mean.  Well, I guess it must have just been instinct, huh?" she asked, impishly.

He laughed.  "Oh yeah?  Instinct, huh?  Well I hope it's an instinct you retain, hon!" and leaned over to kiss her lightly on the lips before they both drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Seven

The sun was streaming in through the window when Derek stirred.  He looked around and realized he was in bed next to Alex, and he jerked upright waking her in the process.

"My Got!  What time is it?" he asked, shocked that they had slept so late.  The precept was obviously concerned that he would be seen leaving her room in his current state.  However, as he looked over to where her clock rested on the nightstand to her right, he gazed down and all thoughts of leaving her were forgotten.  He remembered vividly the things she had done to him in the night, and shivered.  He bent to kiss her.

"Goot morning darling.  Have I told you how beautiful are?" he asked, properly loverlike.

She smiled up at him, his hair even more unkempt than his norm.  She recalled that it had gotten that way when she ran her fingers through it during their fevered lovemaking.

"Oh, not since the middle of the night." she replied impishly, combing his hair with her fingers.

He had just begun to introduce her to the joys of morning love, when there was a rapping on her door.  Alex almost laughed out loud at his trapped look, when he realized that Rachel would want to come in for their regular morning tea and chat.

"Uh, JUST A MINUTE RACHEL!" she yelled, and threw his pajama top across to him as he jumped into his bottoms.  She pulled her nightshirt on, threw the sheets and comforter haphazardly across the bed, and ushered him into her armoire.  Then she rushed over to the door and opened it.

Rachel stood outside waiting patiently holding a tray with tea and toast.  When Alex opened the door she walked in and sat down in one of the two chairs by the window, placing the tray on the table between the chairs.

The older woman looked across at the bed and her eyebrows rose.  She had visited Alex's room most mornings for the past six months and this was the first time that her bed was in such disarray.  Rachel thought that if she didn't know better, she would have guessed that the young beauty had been engaged in an orgy during the night.

"Bad dreams?" she asked, pointedly looking at the bed as the tall woman collapsed into the chair opposite her.

Alex was really enjoying herself.  Her twisted sense of humor found the situation nearly hysterical.  It was all she could do to refrain from laughing out loud at the thought of Derek squeezed into the cramped space of her armoire while she sat sipping tea and exchanging gossip with her friend.

"Oh, nothing I couldn't handle." She replied, and coughed loudly to cover the smothered grunt that came from across the room.

Derek, for his part, was praying hard that she would have the compassion to cut short the morning ritual.  His limbs were already beginning to strain at the unnatural position in which he had to remain to fit his tall form inside the box.  "Thank Got, Alex likes soft flowing materials." He thought to himself ruefully.  Soon he heard the words that he had been praying for.

"Rachel, I just don't think I feel up to much of a coze this morning.  Do you mind?  I did have a pretty rough night, and I think I still need a bit more sleep." She said, yawning to give her statement verisimilitude.

The doctor rose and smiled at her.  "Obviously," she thought, "Brendan is still around here somewhere."

Aloud she said, "I understand completely, Alex.  Just don't let Derek catch you guys.  Brendan's a great guy, but our precept would be mighty ticked off if he knew what you were up to." And she winked, then headed for the door.

The doctor was perplexed by the look of horror that briefly crossed her friend's face.  However, she just chalked it up to the thought of Derek being made aware of his protégé's liaison with the gorgeous salesman.

After the door had closed behind her, Derek stepped from the armoire with a dark look on his face.  The young woman wished she were anywhere but where she was at that moment.

His voice was deceptively soft when he asked, "What did she mean by her comment about Brendan, Alex?"

"Uh, well…I…uh…." Alex couldn't think of anything that might account for Rachel's implied warnings.

Derek just stood looking at her sharply and she knew that nothing short of the truth would suffice.  "Okay, I've been seeing quite a bit of Bren lately, Derek."

"I see." He said, and turned to look out her window across the park that lay beyond.

The young woman could sense his disappointment and hurt even though he said not a word.  She was unaccountably angry with Rachel for being the unintentional cause of their present predicament.  If the doctor hadn't felt so playful that morning, Derek would never have needed to know about her involvement with Brendan Gautier.  As it was, she had no choice but to be completely honest with her mentor, friend, and would be lover.

"Well, we've…uh…slept together Derek.  I'm sorry!  I just never thought that you and I would ever go this far.  I didn't do it to hurt you or anything, just…well, you know." She said, finishing lamely.

He turned back to look at her and his eyes had a haunted look to them.  "Actually Alex, no, I don't know.  I haven't wanted to be with anyone but you since first realizing how I felt about you.  I thought you felt the same way.  It appears that I was wrong.  Forgive my intrusive behavior last night.  It won't happen again, I assure you." He said, and walked out of her room without giving her a chance to speak.

"DAMN!" she said, and kicked the table, then cursed even harder at the pain in her foot.  She knew that she couldn't leave it like this.  She had actually thought that she might break it off with Brendan if things were going to progress with this infuriating man.

"DEREK!" she yelled, following him out into the hall.

He stopped and looked back at her, oblivious to the glances of the staff who were busy cleaning the family rooms and hallway.

"Yes?" he asked, not giving her an inch.

She sighed, understanding his position yet wishing he weren't so stubborn.  "Please come back.  I need to speak with you."

"What is there left to say, Alex?" he asked, unwilling to re-enter her rooms.

So he wouldn't allow her to even say what she had to say in privacy, eh?  "Okay, Dr. Rayne, two can play at this game" she thought.

Aloud she said, "First of all, you don't have to apologize for your behavior last night in bed.  You were wonderful.  Magnificent.  Awe inspiring." She said laying it on very thick, and noticed his lips twitching.  "I just wish you had done that a long time ago."

Having gotten his attention, she switched gears and became deadly serious.  "Secondly…I love you Derek.  I had already made up my mind to stop seeing Brendan.  After our…well you know, last night.  I just wanted you to be happy.  I thought the only way to do that was to give you plenty of time and space.  Obviously, I was wrong.  And lastly.  Please tell me what you want from me.  I'll do anything you ask…just don't walk away from me like this.  Please."

"Oh Man!" Nick said, as he happened to walk out into the middle of her speech.  He was dressed and ready for the long drive he had to make to Sonoma.  "Sorry guys…didn't mean to intrude.  What, couldn't you take this inside?"

An appreciative smile was growing on Derek's lips.  "What a woman!" he thought.  He understood the motives behind Alex's blatant public admission of what was between them.  He had goaded her just a bit too far, and she struck back in a like manner.  Nick's happening to walk into the middle of it, didn't even bother Derek in light of what her actions had told him.  She really did care about him, and what had happened between them wasn't just "convenience" as he had originally thought.

Ignoring the shocked looks of everyone, including Nick and Alex, the precept walked back to Alex's open doorway, grabbed her wrist and dragged her inside.  Nick's jaw dropped open when Derek winked at him as he shut the door firmly in the younger man's face.

Nick's shock gave way to amusement, and his smile grew by leaps and bounds as he heard the squeals and laughter coming from the other side of the door.  "Well, it's about time those two came to their senses." He said, and began to whistle on his way down to the car.

In the foyer he ran into Rachel.  She looked perplexed and he asked her what was wrong.

"Have you seen Derek this morning?" she asked.  "He said last night that he wanted to go over my notes on the MacGregor case before I took off for my rounds today."

Nick laughed out loud.  "Oh yeah, I've seen him alright.  Uh, if I were you, I'd just go on ahead and do those rounds.  I don't think he'll be down for a while." He said, smiling mysteriously and walked out the door.

Rachel just shook her head and headed for the breakfast room to gather her belongings. At the parish offices of Saint Patrick's Church, Sydney went about her daily duties.  Philip had been gone a little over a week, but already the normal tapestry of church business was beginning to fray around the edges.  Father James was a good man and a wonderful priest, but inexperienced in the running of a parish.

She was tired from long hours of filling in for her boss on the more mundane aspects of his business, and sat back in her chair rubbing the nape of her neck.  She wished Nick were around to give her a massage, but he had run up to Sonoma and wouldn't be back until the following afternoon.  It would just have to be a hot shower that evening.

Suddenly, she felt like the room was spinning, but all she could see were a rapid succession of monochromatic images.  Philip tied to a bed like a sacrificial lamb, a dark-haired woman laughing maliciously, a beautiful young girl, a boy and woman, a dark robed figure with arms extended.  As the last image began to fade, she saw a beast…something more hideous than anything she'd ever seen in life or between the pages of a book.  It was huge and black, with smoldering yellow eyes and vicious looking teeth.  She was terrified, and as suddenly as the vision started, it stopped.

Sydney was shaking from head to foot and her breath was coming in ragged gasps.  She couldn't make sense of the vision, except for one solid fact.  Philip was in danger, of that she was sure.  Just at that moment her cellular telephone rang, causing her to scream aloud in surprise.

Father James stuck his head around the doorjamb and asked her if she was all right.  She nodded and said that the phone had just startled her.  He smiled, and disappeared from sight as she reached for the offending object.

"Hello?" she said tentatively, still unsettled by the vision she'd just experienced.

"Hey, what took you so long?  I was about ready to hang up!" Nick's familiar voice floated over the airwaves to her.

Sydney let out a sigh of relief.  "Oh Nick!  It's you!  Hi!"

"Uh…Syd, what's wrong?  Of course it's me.  Who else would it be?" he asked, perplexed.

She tried to laugh, but it came out sounding funny.  "Oh nothing's wrong.  I was concentrating and the phone just startled me, that's all.  You know, caught me off guard.  So what' s up with you?" she asked in an attempt to divert his attention.

"Well, I was calling to tell you that I'd be home later tonight after all.  The trip was a bust.  By the time I got here, the guy I was supposed to meet with had taken off.  I was wondering if you'd mind if I crashed at your place when I get home.  It'll probably be late, but…" she cut him off before he had a chance to finish his thought.

"Oh yes Nick…that'd be great!  Please do come over tonight.  I really don't want to be alone." She said, very relieved that he would be there.

Nick sounded concerned when he spoke next.  "Uh babe, what's wrong?  You okay?"

She realized that her emotional state was very obvious, but she didn't want to worry him any more than he already was.  She had no idea what was happening, and didn't want to cause a stir until she did.  Especially not with him.

She tried to sound nonchalant as she replied, "Of course, I'm okay.  I just want to spend time with you.  That's all.  Hurry home Nicky."

Chapter Eight

Philip dozed off and on throughout the day.  The events of the past 48 hours had depleted his energy reserves, and he was physically exhausted.  He received no return visit from the sprite, and began to wonder nervously what she was up to.

At one point he awoke to discover his bonds had been loosened and a tray of food had been placed on the table next to the bed.  As much as he wanted to abstain, he couldn't.  He was starving and had no idea when he would have the opportunity to eat again, so he devoured the meal set before him.

When he was through he got up, fashioning a sort of 'toga' out of the sheet which had been draped over him when he first awoke.  The young priest explored the room and found that all the doors had been locked from the outside.  From what he could see from the windows, his room appeared to be against a sheer cliff, so escape from that side was unlikely anyway.

He took the opportunity to relieve himself.  The facilities were first rate, but there was nothing in the lavatory that could possibly be of use to the young priest and his escape.  Soon he began to feel drowsy and realized that something had been placed in his food to make him sleep.  He couldn't fight the urge to lay down on the bed, and was soon sound asleep again.

The next time he awoke, his bonds had been retied and his 'toga' removed.  Obviously, Cliodhna had no intentions of releasing him soon.  Nor did she plan to let him starve to death.  He tried to remain awake for some time, but in the end he fell asleep again.

Later, upon opening his eyes, he noticed that it was dark outside the huge picture windows, but the room was alit, glowing.  As he looked around, he realized that it was the glow from hundreds of candles.  He glanced at the fireplace, and noticed HER sitting in a chair watching him.  This time she was dressed in black velvet.

"Whaddya plan t'do with me?" he asked, cutting to the chase.

The creature in the chair threw back her head and laughed.  "You're the brave little one, aren't you?  Most of the men I capture can't put two words together to save their lives.  Not you though.  Not 'Father Philip Joseph Thomas Callaghan'.  He speaks.  You're not afraid of me, are you Philip?" she asked him, truly interested in his answer.

He simply shook his head and looked away from her as if dismissing her.  The sprite chuckled, and she stood, walking toward him.  He noticed, thankful to whomever had the compassion to put it back, that the sheet was once again draped across his body.  The womanly creature smiled down at him.

"I did it." She simply said, nodding down at the sheet.  "You see, I DO care what becomes of you my dear.  In fact, I've become quite partial to you.  Don't ask me why…it just happened."

"Well, if you're so 'partial' t'me, let me go.  I've got business t'attend to." He said, pushing his luck, but feeling that it was worth the risk.

She grinned at him and asked what business he might have that could possibly be more inviting than what she had to offer him.

"I really don' think you wan' t'know th'answer t'tha' Cliodhna." He replied, deciding that she actually LIKED the fact that he spoke to her as an equal, even though he was essentially her prisoner.

"Oh but I do, darling.  I do.  Come on Philip, tell Cliodhna." She said cajolingly, and climbed up on the bed to lie full length beside him, stroking his chest with her fingers.

He remained silent and she slid her hand up under the sheet.

"Oh NO!  Don' start tha' again!" he said sharply.

The sprite actually giggled.  "Well my love, it is 'what I do', as they say.  Besides, I like the way you feel…the way you tremble at my touch.  It has been quite a while, hasn't it my dear? Hmmm?"

He knew that the only way to stop her now would be to divert her mind.  "Alright!  You wanna know wha' my business is in Ireland.  I'll tell ya.  You're demonic 'friend' has stricken down ma niece to get to me, and I have t'stop him before it's too late for her.  She's all o'seventeen!"

The woman beside him didn't cease her exploration of his body, but only laughed softly in his ear.  "Ludicrous.  Iuvart has no need of seventeen-year-old girls when he has me…"

Suddenly, she sat upright.  "Wait!  What do you mean 'to get to you'?  Why would he 'want' to get to you, Philip?" she asked, suspiciously.

He laughed harshly in her face.  "So he didn'a tell you everythin' did he?  We have quite a history, Iuvart an' I.  He's th'one who killed Briony, an' just a little over a year ago, he lured me back here t'Ireland, t'have another go at me!  He want's ma soul Cliodhna, an' he's usin' you t'get it!"

"You're lying...lying to save yourself!  Well it won't work Philip!" she said scathingly.  "I'll use you until I tire of you.  Then, and only then, will you be allowed to leave this house!  Do you understand?"

And having pronounced her edict, she stomped from the room, completely missing the slight smile on the priest's face.  At least he had bought himself some time.  His captor was most definitely NOT in the mood now.

Continued in the next page...