This wasn't in my job description
Reporting a break-in, avoiding my overprotective ex-lover, dodging dangerous men out to kill me not exactly a typical day for a comparative mythology professor. So how did I, Magdalene Sanger, get mixed up in all this?
It started with a family legend that connects me to a goddess and charges me with recovering the grail she hid away ages ago. Apparently, some powerful people heard the story and are bent on destroying the grail at any costincluding my life! Now I have to find it before the enemy closes in.
Click below for any of the following:
RITA for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, 2004
Best Silhouette Bombshell from Romantic Times
Best Series Novel from All About Romance
Best Silhouette Bombshell from CataRomance.com
A.K.A. GODDESS (4) is a sexy, edge-of-your-seat adventure with an interesting basis in myth and feminism. Evelyn Vaughn's excellent love triangle, complex characters and believable heroine leave readers wanting more
Knee-weakening sexual tension and edge of your seat suspense. The plot is shadowed with uncertainty, the love scenes sizzle, and the fight scene at the end is tense, exciting, and horrifyingly real. Maggie is a kick-butt heroine you will love to cheer for.
If you are a fan of kick butt heroines who don't really need a man to
fight her battles for her, then this is the book for you! The action never
lets up and the adventure pulls us through this book at a fast pace! If
this book is any indication of how the new Bombshell series is going to be,
then count me in for each and every story!
I thoroughly enjoyed this truly fabulous book and hope that Evelyn Vaughn
will write more of these grail keeper stories! If so, I know I will be one
of the first ones in line to read them.
I've read several of the books from Silhouette new Bombshell line and A.K.A. GODDESS is one of my favorites... a taut intense experience that will delight devout fans and gain her new one (I'm definitely one!). I can't wait to read the next story in this fascinating series, HER KIND OF TROUBLE, which takes Maggi to Alexandria and Cairo. Hopefully, November won't take to long to get here!
Maggi Sanger is a fantastic character that I could truly connect with. Her bravery, intelligence, and emotion were in perfect harmony, and resulted in an exceptionally realistic person. Maggi's loyalty and duty war with her emotions, while her academic mind conflicts and simultaneously melds with her paranormal quest. ... For an exciting and engaging book with lethal danger, mystery, intrigue, and ancient history, I most definitely recommend A.K.A. GODDESS for your reading enjoyment. Get your copy before the next adventure begins; you won't want to be left behind.
This is a book that begins solidly, only to get better and better and better as it goes. In the end I couldn't think of a single thing I disliked about it. As an action-adventure story, it delivered everything I expected, and so much more. It's exciting. It's funny. It's romantic. It's unexpected. It's everything I would want in a great read. Finally, the Bombshell line lives up to its promise. This book rocks.
The light over my front door was out again. I noticed it as I carried my damp gym bag up the shadowy outer stairs. I'd have to call the landlord.
Then I climbed high enough to see that my door stood open several inches.
I knew I'd locked it.
Someone was in my apartment.
For a long, dumb moment, I just stared. Then I backed down the steps as quietly as I could. Don't get me wrong. I think of myself as a strong woman. I come from a long line of themWACs, suffragettes, ladies who disguised themselves as boys to fight alongside soldier husbands in ancient wars. And, trust me, that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my family and woman-power.
But there's a gaping difference between strength and stupidity. Our brains are our best weapon, or so my sifulike a Chinese senseiused to say. By the time I reached and unlocked my car, still blessedly untouched, I all but dove inside. I hit the lock button, only then using my cell phone to call 9-1-1.
Then I sat there on the phone, fumbling my key into the ignition as if whoever was in my apartment might force me to flee by automobile.
Or maybe to run them over. Who can say, with hypotheticals?
The cops got there barely ten minutes laternot a bad response timeand I disconnected from the nice emergency operator. I cracked my window, but the two officers only nodded in my direction before heading upstairs to check matters out. What felt like forever later, a second blue-and-white cruised into my parking lot. As its female officer got out, I could hear her radio crackle. A male voice said, "Someone's trashed the place, but it seems empty. We'll look around to make sure."
Trashed the place? My place?
Weirdly, instead of feeling hurt or violated, I simply felt disbelief. My apartment was safe. I'd seen to that on so many levels. How could someone trash it?
The policewoman tapped on my car window. Despite having watched her approach, I still jumped. "Ms. Sanger? Officer Sofie Douglas. Could I ask you some questions?"
I was still tenseso much for the relaxation benefits of my thirty laps at the gym. But fair or not, her being female made her more approachable. She was black, shorter than me and, like me, in her late twenties. She wore tight braids pulled into a fat ponytail. She had gentle eyes.
As a gesture of confidence, I climbed out of the car.
"Is your name really Margaret Sanger?" Douglas asked. "Like the lady who made birth control legal?"
"No," I said, not for the first time. "Not Margaret."
Her eyebrows arched. "Dispatch said you identified yourself as Maggie."
I saw her writing it down. "No e."
She scratched out the e. Hey, at least I don't dot the I's with hearts or smiley faces.
"Maggi's short for Magdalene," I said.
Officer Douglas blinked at me. "You mean like Mary Magdalene?"
Lights appeared above us, from my apartment's bedroom window, and my head came up to track it. "That's the one."
She didn't go on to ask, the prostitute? I appreciated that, since it's a misconception anyway or at least a leap of scholarship. Under other circumstances, I would've liked to chat with her. But now.
"So what do you do?" she asked. "For a living, I mean."
"I teach Comparative Mythology at the college."
She stared. "You can major in that?"
I was rolling onto and off of the balls of my feet, like a Tai Chi form about to escape. "When can go up there?"
"As soon as we're sure it's safe, Dr. Sanger. So how do you like being a professor?"
Her distraction wasn't working. Now that I felt fairly sure no burglars lurked in my home, I wanted to see the damage for myself. I had to know if this really was random. I kind of hoped it was.
Static crackled on Officer Douglas' radio. Then a voice: "Nobody's here. It doesn't look like they took anything."
I jogged up the stairs without waiting for Sofie Douglas' permission.
The place was trashed, all right. Sofa cushions slit. Drawers overturned. Plants uprooted in dark spills of potting soil. In some corners, my carpet had even been torn off its pad. Stunned, I headed for the bedroom, which was just as bad. All my clothes!
"Can you tell if anything's missing, Ms. Sanger?" asked a burly, red-haired officer. "Anything of value?"
"It's all of value," I said, more softly than I would have liked. "It's mine."
"Yes, ma'am. I mean"
But I held up a hand to cut him off. I knew what he meant. As a test, I checked my jewelry box. There never had been a lot thereeven during my brief engagement, I'd worn the too-expensive diamondbut I had a few family heirlooms.
"Nothing's missing." I turned and noticed my bedroom TV. It was portable, but it hadn't been, well, ported. I returned to my living roomthe TV and stereo remained there, too, though they'd been upendedand looked into my office. My computer hummed steadily, monitor face-down on the floor. But.
"The CPU's running," I said. "I turned it off before I left home this morning."
Officer Douglas, who'd followed me upstairs, went to look more closely at my computer. The redhead, whose shield identified him as Officer Willis, said, "Does anybody have a key to your home?"
"My parents," I said. "Twono, three of my friends."
He exchanged an amused glance with the other male officer, a tall, graying guy with a moustache.
"And the lady who cleans up for me once a week," I added. "Oh, and my dog walker."
Willis looked concerned. "You have a dog?"
As if I would've hidden in my car if any dog of mine had been in jeopardy! "Not anymore. She died last fall. I just never bothered to get my key back."
I nodded; even a gentle loss hurts. The memory helped prioritize this particular crisis. "I've also given a key to my neighbor, so she can check on things when I'm gone. But she's trustworthy. They all are."
"Maybe I should've asked who doesn't have a key."
There were a few.
"I prefer not to empower fear," I murmured, turning in a circle, and he snorted with male superiority. At least he didn't factor that old line about "a woman as pretty as you" into his argument, as if a decent appearance begs for trouble.
Trouble doesn't wait for invitations.
That's when I noticed what was left of my curio cabinet. The cabinet itself had been destroyedlying on its side, the door yanked completely off, cherry wood splintered and every pane of glass smashed. And my collection of statues, inside.
Little more than rubble.
I took a step forward, unbelieving. Chunks of white marble were all that remained of what had once been a 12-inch Pallas Athena, which I'd bought in Greece. Shards of lapis lazuli had been my Isis-and-Horus statue, in a maternal pose that would later be used for countless other religious icons. My obsidian Kali was many-armed rubble. My glossy, ceramic Virgin Mary had been smashed to shiny dust. Even the wonderfully fertile Venus, similar to the famous Willendorf figure and carved from granite, had been reduced to round and jagged bits.
There was no way the Venus could have broken like that accidentally. Someone must have pounded on her, hard. Repeatedly. Purposefully.
And in anger.
I'd recently read a news piece about a goddess artifact being similarly destroyed, in a museum in India, and the similaritiesas well as my sudden conclusionsunnerved me.
"Wow." Willis whistled. "What were those?"
"Goddesses," I said. "I collect statues of ancient goddesses."
"Were they worth a lot?"
Monetarily? Some more than othersnone were originals, thank heavens. But emotionally.
Officer Douglas, from my study doorway, said, "Goddesses? Are you one of those Wiccans?"
"Not exactly," I told her, fingering the amulet I wore under my shirt. It wasn't a pentagram, but two interlaced circles called a vesica piscis. I wasn't technically Wiccan. I couldn't quite believe in their brand of magic, even when I wanted to. But our beliefs have surprising similarities.
It's like I told you.
I come from a very long line of very strong women.
* * *
The police all but moved in. They made phone calls and questioned neighbors. Specialists showed up to photograph the wreckage and to dust for fingerprints, more backup than I'd ever expected for a simple break-in. When I asked if this was normal, Officer Willis said, "We're just trying to be thorough, ma'am."
I put up with it for insurance reasons, but mainly I just wanted to clean up. Did you knowrecent studies have shown that while men have a fight-or-flight response to stress, women have a hormone that prompts them to mend-and-befriend? I hated to see Officer Sofie go, despite her leaving her card with me and telling me to call anytime. But I also wanted space in which to mourn my statues, to put things as much to right as I could and to consider who could have done such a thing and why.
I couldn't help thinking this break-in might somehow be related to the recent destruction of an ancient goblet, the Kali Cup, a week before it could go on display. But that meant things I couldn't face. Not yet.
I'd barely managed to start straightening the mess, alone at last, when a knock at the door startled me. That annoyed me. I don't like being scared. It goes against almost everything I believe in.
Checking the peephole and catching a glimpse of brown hair, and a familiar face in its usual impersonal mode, didn't do a lot to improve my mood or my lingering disorientation.
Alexander Rothschild Stuart III and I go back. Way, way back. Worse, he makes me question my life choices almost every time our diverse paths collide. See, he'd be the dream catch for almost any womanwealthy beyond his unimaginable inheritance, quietly handsome and, despite nearing thirty, still something of a brooding bad boy. Hard to resist, huh?
Hell, even I have a terrible time resisting him, as our roller-coaster history attests. And I have different views on money and power than a lot of women. At leastI try.
I could also no longer trust either him or his family as far as I could comfortably spit them.
Still, there was that lack-of-resistance thing, and the intimate history thing, along with no small amount of curiosity. It had been months since I'd so much as glimpsed the man's Saab speed past on the main drag, yet there he stood, too self-possessed to even look impatient while I checked him out. Him showing up on the night of my break-in couldn't have been a coincidence even if I believed in coincidences.
I don't. But I opened the door.
"Are you all right?" The question came out vague and polite, as if he were making bored chit-chat at a cocktail party. Lex has always had that coolness about himhe can trace his family line back to the royal house of Scotland, by way of England, so it's probably all that blue blood chilling in his veins. But the fact that he was here at all, much less this late, belied his nonchalance. So did the powerful energy that instantly roiled between us. "I heard about the break-in."
"From the police?" I asked, trying to keep up my guard. That might explain all the special treatment, mightn't it? "Or are you a part of the criminal grapevine now?"
He'd been accused of perjury the previous year. Worse, he hadn't denied it. It had contributed to our latest breakup.
Now my words wrung a hint of a smile from him, an expression that, on Lex, packs a potent punch. "So may I come in? You know I need permission to cross a person's threshold."
No, he wasn't a vampire. He was just being sarcastic.
"You might as well." I sighed. "Everyone else has tonight."
So he did, casually touching my arm as he passed me except that nothing Lex Stuart does is truly casual. He's got a great poker face, but it's more as if he's eternally lying in wait for something, patiently still, ready to pounce.
I've only seen him pounce once. I didn't enjoy it.
"Ouch," he said, noticing my broken curio cabinet. I'd had to cruise every room before I came back and saw it, but he took it in first thing. Suspicious? "They got the girls?"
"Thoroughly." I watched him cross to the rubble. I'd been straightening, but I hadn't gotten to that yet. Once I cleaned it up, I might as well throw it all awaynothing had enough left of it to save. I wasn't sure I felt ready for that.
"Bastards." Lex picked up the round, faceless head of my Willendorfesque Venusa piece he'd given me when I got my doctorate. We hadn't even been dating at the time. But he'd sent me the statue for my collection anyway, managing in true Lex fashion to choose something that, despite my best sense, I couldn't bear to return.
"Luckily none of it was original."
"This was," he said.
I gaped at him.
He shrugged, dropped the chunk of rock back onto the carpet, and brushed his fingers on his neatly pressed, thousand-dollar slacks. "You know my family collects antiques."
Yes, I knew. Beyond last year's corporate espionage trial, and his still-murky role, his family's antique collection was one more reason to distrust the Stuarts. Considering my own family's connection to certain relics, that is. Now this.
"You gave me an original piece of Paleolithic sculpture?" Not counting what something like that would fetch at auction, hadn't it belonged in a museum? Was owning it even legal?
The Stuarts never had constrained themselves with something so mundane as legalities.
"So did they take anything?" Lex answered my question with his avoidance. "Or was it simple vandalism?"
They were looking for something. The dumped drawers, the gutted cushions, the carpet pulled away from the corners it was the only logical explanation. I hadn't cleaned enough of the damage for someone as smart as Lex to miss that either. And they hated my goddesses. Any guesses?
"I haven't found anything missing," I said, noncommittal. "But it's hard to tell, this early."
We eyed each other, letting the silence stretch. Me, because I had theories I wanted to protect awhile longer. Him who could tell? Maybe he had secrets too. Or it could just be his love of a good competition.
Either way, neither of us 'fessed up to anything.
He turned away firstthough it may have been a simple courtesy. "You really need a monitored security system, Mag. If you can't afford one, I wish you'd let me"
Blessedly, my phone rang to cut him off before he tried to buy me yet again. Even during the good times, we generally argued when he did that.
I noticed the bits of broken Venus on the rug and thought, at least when I notice he's doing that.
Another ring. He turned away to look at other bits of damage, giving me an illusion of privacy. It wasn't the best circumstance under which to take a phone call, but I didn't want the answering machine to pick up and broadcast anything to him.
Too bad I'd already rehooked the machine. So I answered. "Hello?"
"How soon can you get to France?" Sure enough, it was my cousin Lillikely on business Lex shouldn't know about.
I used every bit of self-control to say, "I have company. Call you back?"
There was a long pause while she took that in. Then Lil asked, "Is it who I think it is?"
Maybe she's psychic. Maybe she's just really smart. Does there have to be a difference?
I peeked over my shoulder at Lex. He'd decided to make himself useful and was shelving some of my scattered books, scowling at the destruction. Or at their titles, which made me wince inwardly. They were books on ancient goddess cultures.
"I think it is."
"I'll call you," she said, and hung up. Quickly. I wondered if she'd gotten off the line before a trace could be run assuming anybody was running a trace.
She would call back from a different phone, likely using someone else's three-way dialing to confuse matters further. Just in case. We're amateurs at the cloak-and-dagger stuff, but we learn fast. And as much as I hated bowing to that kind of paranoia well, someone had broken in.
Lex turned back to me, solemn, as I set down the phone. His rich hazel eyes didn't flinch. "You used to trust me."
Did he purposefully choose the best way to wound me, or was he just expressing his own pain? Maybe there was no difference there, either. I didn't want to do this again. It had hurt both of us too much the last few times. Still, I couldn't not answer. "You didn't used to work for your cousin."
He tried a wry smile. "I never said Phil isn't an asshole, Mag."
"And yet you cover for him, despite last year's trial."
"In which the charges were dropped." And they had been. Espionage. Perjury. Insider trading. Unfair monopoly.
"After an undisclosed settlement," I reminded him. "That you won't even talk about."
He took a deep breathon him, a sign of increased upset. "Because I signed a contract of non-disclosure."
"Damned convenient, that. The ends don't always justify the means, Lex. Sometimes the means are everything."
"The stockholders seem happy enough."
I said, "So marry one of the stockholders."
He stiffened. "I was just worried about an old friend, Magdalene. Don't flatter yourself that there's more. Marriage hasn't been on the table for some time."
I forced myself to say, "Good."
That brought him up short. It hadn't been my intention, whether he deserved it or not. And I still didn't know, couldn't possibly guess if he really deserved it.
That's the part that really sucked. Not knowing. And he'd fixed things so I would never know.
"Oh, Lex, I didn't mean it that way." I crossed to his side, torn. An enemy, I could fight. An ally, I could love. But what could I do with him? "What I meant was, you deserve to be happy, and it clearly isn't happening with me. I just wish"
But he shut me up by kissing me.
I should probably have fought him off. Slapped his face, kneed him where it hurt, bit his searching tongue. I had my ways. That would teach him to be so damned proprietary.
But I'd missed him, and I needed that kiss far, far too badly to risk any of it.
We fit, somehow. Always have. He was my first date, my first kiss, my first time, my first love. He was also my first heartbreak, and second, and third, with a truckload of regret thrown in and yet his arms gathering me to him felt right on a deeper level than good sense could counter. Such incredible power. Such unfathomable depths.
Such a really great body. The boy was ripped.
When I dug my fingers into his thick, ginger-brown hair and chewed playfully at his lip, he turned to wedge me against the door, never breaking the kiss. His body felt hard and necessary against mine. Alive. Real. Lex. My soul knew the taste of him, the feel of him, the scent of his breath. Our heartbeats, pressed chest to breast, seemed to fall into almost instant unison. I opened my mouth to him, slid one knee up over his hip, arched into the brace of his arms, my body singing.
The telephone rang again, startling me back. "Crap."
Lex steadied himself with the heel of his hand, a solid thunk against the door, but otherwise regained quick control. "Don't worry," he said thickly, licking his lips and swallowing heavily. "I'm well aware this was just a momentary lapse."
That didn't make the reality of it any easier to bear.
"You don't have to work for your family," I pleadedbut I took a step back toward the ringing phone as I said it. Talk about your divided loyalties! "No matter what they expect. The money can't be that good."
He stared at me. Then, surprisingly, he laughed-if a little harshly-and ducked forward to kiss my cheek. "Someday you'll realize just how painfully naïve you are, Mag. I hope to God I'm there when it happens." Oh? "So that you can come to my rescue?" I asked. "Or so that you can say you told me so?"
His eyes crinkled, just a bitand he let himself out. "Lock up," he called over his shoulder.
The phone screamed yet again as the door shut behind him, then rolled over to the machine. I snatched the handset up, interrupting my own recorded voice. "Yes!"
"So sorry," said Lil, her British accent adding to her sarcastic edge. "Is the need to save the world for womankind getting in the way of your date with Satan?"
"Don't call him that." Maybe I should be beyond defending him. I'm not. "We don't know anything for sure."
Lil's voice gentled. "We know enough, Maggi."
And she was right. In the end, it no longer mattered what I felt for Lex Stuart or what he felt for me.
I was still one of an ancient line of women charged with the protection of sacred, secret chalices. Chalices that could, if legend was to be believed, heal the worldmale and female. Holy grails, every one of them.
And Lex came from a family rumored to be bent on destroying them.