Series: Elder Races #4
Published by Berkley Sensation on March 6th 2012
Genres: Paranormal/Urban Fantasy
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He will watch over her...An untested young woman must claim her place as the Oracle—and contend with a powerful Djinn who has decided to become a part of her life...
As a second daughter, Grace Andreas never had to worry about the intrigues of the Elder Races. But when her sister, Petra, and Petra's husband are both killed, Grace inherits the Power and responsibilities of the Oracle of Louisville, as well as her sister's two young children—neither of which she is prepared for.
Yet, she is not alone. Khalil, Demonkind and Djinn prince of House Marid—driven by his genuine caring for the children—has decided to make himself a part of the household both as their guardian and as an exasperating counterpoint to Grace's impudence toward the Elder Races.
But when an attempt is made on Grace's life, she realizes that Khalil is the only one who can protect her—and offer her more than a mortal man.
The Andreas family has had the honor of being the Oracle for centuries, with this gift being passed down from female to female from generation to generation. Grace Andreas never wanted the honor of being the Oracle, but she knew when she woke up in the hospital after that horrific car accident, that her older sister must be dead. Grace could feel the power of the Oracle stirring within her now.
Not only had the car accident taken her sister and brother-in-law, it has taken Grace’s freedom. You see, not only had she inherited the power of the Oracle, but she was now responsible for the care of her orphaned niece and nephew, and Oracle or not, diapers need to be changed and laundry needs to be washed.
Grace tries not to let it all get to her. Her niece and nephew are such wonderful children. It’s just that she has no money, the bills are piling up, the roof is falling in, her knee was badly damaged in the car accident and now all manner of Elder Races creatures keep showing up at her doorstep, including this pompous, bossy Djinn named Khalil…um, something important…who has become the bane of her existence.
When some of the most dangerous and powerful of the Elder Races start knocking on her door, especially when the dragon himself, Dragos Cuelebre, lands his plane-sized dragon butt on her front lawn, she knows that she needs help to protect herself and the children, because if these powerful creatures decide to ignore the code of Sanctuary, there will be nothing she, a mere mortal, can do. Maybe it’s time to strike a bargain with the bane of her existence, as long as he’s gonna hang around anyway.
But she’ll have to be careful, since there is nothing a Djinn likes better than striking a bargain.
I love, love, love this series! I love Thea’s writing style and I absolutely love her characters.
I enjoyed that in this story her characters stayed “in character” throughout the story and although they grew an emotional attachment to each other, fundamentally they stayed the same. Khalil is a Djinn and has little contact with humans over his centuries, but he quickly becomes protective of Grace’s children, and as their caregiver to Grace herself. Even when he sits and reads to the children, there is a formality to him that doesn’t change. Although you can see an inner change to his thinking and his feelings towards Grace, those feelings don’t change his character.
I also loved that although Grace’s knee has been badly injured in the accident which took her sister’s life, it is presented that it is too late in the healing process for Khalil to use magic to heal her. Although it sucks for her that she will always have this injury, I like that Thea doesn’t have Khalil sweep in and magically make everything better for her. He doesn’t magically heal her. She is poor but he doesn’t take over her life and give her money or magically make repairs that need to be made, etc. This type of control and charity would have rubbed Grace the wrong way and would have kept them from being able to build a relationship. He protects her and the children from danger and helps her in other ways, but the only controlling he tries to force over her is for Grace to call him when she or the children are in danger. He doesn’t come in and try to take over their lives.
This was a very “love me as I am” story and I really enjoyed it.
My only disappointment stems from the fact that the Djinn are a creature of energy and can draw their energies together to resemble a human form. If they are powerful enough, they can also use their power and magic to create a more human-type body or to actually create a full human body and become mortal. When Khalil takes Grace on a date, he decides he wants to create a body and actually experience what human touch would be like. When Grace touches Khalil’s arm, he is overwhelmed by the experience of just this simple touch. This was such an interesting concept and so fascinating to me, and I was disappointed that when we finally got to the “good stuff” it was a short scene. I would have liked it drawn out a bit longer so we could enjoy watching him experience simple touches and build that up more to a crescendo.
Grace headed in desperation for the coffee maker. Apparently, it was going to be one of those mornings. Funny how often those happen after a short night’s sleep. She set the machine to brew an extra strong pot, because these days caffeine was her best friend. The coffee maker sat on the worn countertop beside the kitchen window. As she switched on the machine, the sunny morning darkened. She leaned over the counter to check out the sky. The sky was blue, dotted with fluffy cumulous clouds and directly overhead a huge portion of it rippled. Wow. Was that wrong. Before she could do more than stare, the rippling mass of nothingness descended onto the wide, neglected lawn, and for the second time in as many days, a dragon appeared on her property. Not a dragon—The Dragon–Dragos Cuelebre, the only known dragon in existence. Cuelebre was easily the size of a private jet. He was a deep bronze color that gleamed in the early sunlight. The bronze darkened to black at the ends of his gigantic wings, tail and long, powerful legs. He turned an enormous triangular, horned head to look around the clearing with fierce metallic gold eyes before he shimmered into a shape-shift. His form shrank into that of a massive man, almost seven feet tall in height with bronze colored skin, inky black hair and gold dragon’s eyes.
She had to stop getting kicked in the head like this. She had to. She looked at the brewing coffee with equal parts panic and despair. Then she looked at Chloe and Max. Chloe was tearfully muttering to the last of the banana in her hand. Max kicked a tiny plump foot as he licked his fingers. Grace’s appalled gaze traveled back to the scene outside the window where Cuelebre stood in the direction of the front of the house. He had a brutal handsomeness, as though he had be hewn out of granite, and to her mind’s eye, the air around him boiled with the force of his presence. Violence is forbidden here. She has said that to Cuelebre just yesterday morning when he had come to confront Rune and Carling and eventually the Elder Tribunal as well. Cuelebre’s mate had accompanied him yesterday, but this morning the dragon was alone. He was more frightening when he was alone.
“People can be taken from this place,” Dragos had said, “and violence done to them elsewhere.”
Grace started to shake. She fumbled with the thread of connection to Khalil and pulled on it. She sensed him streaking toward them. His bright power arching like a shooting comet. Then he filled the kitchen with his presence as his form coalesced beside her. Max crowed in surprise.
Chloe said, “Hello there, doggy-cat. Would you like a bite of my banana?”
Grace turned to face Khalil. He had looked powerful and exotic last night, ivory and crimson, and gleaming raven-black hair. In the full light of morning, he appeared more alien than ever. He wore undyed linen this time and his ivory skin was poreless. Those piercing diamond eyes focused on her. Then he glanced sharply around the cheerful domestic scene. He gripped her shoulder in one huge hand. “What is it?”
A sharp knock at the same time. Dry mouthed, she whispered to Khalil, “Would you mind answering that please?”
His hard, elegant face turned toward the front of the house. Then he vanished. She felt him streak toward the front door. Grace looked at Chloe who assumed a pious expression and she held up the last of her fruit. Chloe said, “I was only trying to share.”
Grace leaned back against the counter and slid to the floor. Her bad knee protested so she stretched out her leg. She leaned an elbow on her other upraised knee and rested her head on the heel of that hand. Her blood pounded through her body in great sledge hammer thuds. She felt it throbbing in her eyes, at her temples. Male voices sounded in the background, but her heartbeat pounded too loudly in her ears for her to make out what Khalil and the Dragon said to each other. I can’t do this, she thought. Oh, Petra, you were the one who always wanted to be the Oracle. I never wanted this. I was never supposed to be this. I’m not big enough, strong enough or smart enough to be the Oracle. It’s too much.–Woman up, Gracie! Take responsibility! Do your job! You never have accepted this. You grew up hoping you would never have to be the Oracle and you’ve been kicking against it from the moment you knew your big sister was dead. Like the accident it just happened to you. If you can’t take this on for the people like Rune and Carling, who might need the Oracle’s help, do it for the children, and make sure you live a good, long life while you’re at it so Chloe can have the same kind of happy, carefree childhood you had.
Feeling twice as clumsy as usual, Grace grabbed hold of the counter and used it to haul herself to her feet, balancing all of her weight on her good leg. She hurried toward the front of the house. Tension and antagonism crackled in the air like thunder and lightening. Khalil stood in front of the screen door, arms crossed and expression stony. On the other side of the flimsy barrier an angry dragon towered in human form.
“I see we’re not gettin’ along.” Grace said breathlessly as she came up beside Khalil. She put a hand on Khalil’s bicep and said telepathically, “Thank you.”
He threw her a disgusted glance. Hilarity bubbled up. Oh, yes, that’s right. He didn’t like to be thanked. Well, that was his problem. She kept her hand on Khalil’s arm and turned to the Lord of the Wyr.
“Good morning. What can I do for you? Can I help you quickly or did you want to consult with the Oracle. I’m in the middle of feeding two children so if you want a consultation, it’ll have to wait until after breakfast.”
The Dragon’s hot-gold gaze shifted from Khalil to her and she felt the impact to her bones.
“Interesting,” said Cuelebre. “How did you get a prince of the House Marid to answer your door like a servant?”
“Do not answer that.” Khalil said between his teeth. “It is none of his business.”
Grace had, in fact, been about to answer Cuelebre’s question. Her mouth hung open for a moment before she shut it with a snap. According to the database article she had read, the House Marid was the most powerful of all the Houses of Djinn. So Khalil was a prince? The article hadn’t mentioned anything about royalty. Just that the Houses used consensus in decision making. She filed the observation under, Irrelevant at the moment, interesting enough to pursue at a later time.
“Hungry kids.” She said to Cuelebre. “Tick-tock.” This was the second domain ruler that she had been rude to in as many days. Clearly she was on a roll. She had just five more domain rulers in the United States to go. Give her ‘til the end of the month and she would have plenty of time to piss off everybody.