“Oh great Ghede, come to us and do what we say!”
Valynda Moore rolled her eyes at Helena Day as she and her sister Prudence danced around the small beach fire in their chemises. Their pale blond hair was loose, trailing about them as they drank rum and frolicked in the moonlight. “Your father will kill you if he sees you like this.”
Taking another deep drink from the bottle before she passed it over to her sister, Helena scoffed at her. “Don’t be such a prig! Come and join us.”
Seated on the ground beside Valynda, Margaret Latimer turned to another page in the book she was reading. She glanced up toward Helena. “It says to scatter the white rum with herbs to entice him.”
Pru quit dancing to blink at Margie. “Scatter it where?”
“The fire, no doubt.” Helena grabbed the rum back from her sister’s hand, and before Valynda could warn her that it was highly flammable, she slung it at the flames.
The girls shrieked as it exploded toward the heavens and embers rained down on them.
Except for Valynda who thought them ridiculous in their drunken revelry.
“Now toss in the herbs!” Margie reminded them.
Which also turned out to be flammable as there was no telling what those lunatics had gathered for their summoning ritual to entice the ancient being they wanted to ask about their future husbands.
After shrieking some more, they returned to singing their chant to invoke their Voodoo spirit.
Her ears ringing, it was more than Valynda could take. She’d tried to tell them that Nibo was the spirit for the dead and wouldn’t know anything about their would-be husbands. They’d called her silly and ignored her, then went around the island compiling a list of what they’d need to perform a Voodoo ritual.
Unable to stand anymore acoustic abuse, Valynda pushed herself to her feet, intending to head home.
Helena tossed more rum on the fire. “Oh great Ghede, come to us and do what we say!”
Valynda ducked the flames as the fire exploded around her. Suddenly, a huge shadow appeared on the dark beach before them. Like some demonic beast, it rose to tower above them, twisting and writhing. Its cape billowed out as a cane appeared by its side. A cane topped with a skull that matched his evil face. Opening its bony mouth, the cane appeared to scream, then it vomited fire.
A second later, she fainted.
Helena ran, leaving her sister behind. Shrieking and shrieking, Prudence wet herself before she ran in the opposite direction with her book forgotten on the sand.
His face turning human, the man erupted into laughter.
“Really? Is this how you entertain yourself? A grown man, frightening schoolgirls? What’s wrong with you?”
His laughter died instantly. With an unearthly slowness, he turned to face her. “You dare chastise me?”
“For being a knave? Aye. Of course I do.”
Nibo was aghast as he saw the tiny woman in front of him. Never in all the centuries he’d lived had he met a human who wasn’t a little intimidated by him. Terrified, point of fact.
Confused and baffled, he stared at the puzzle before him who was only passably attractive. While her body was comely enough, she was a bit lanky for his tastes. Her nose rather narrow and long. The only really striking thing about her was her eyes. A rich brown, they were searing with their intelligence, and raw with curiosity.
Marked by her condemnation of him.
“Do you know who I am?”
She narrowed that dark, censoring gaze on him. “Aye. The giant cod-dangle who scared my friends within a quarter-inch of their lives.”
“Dangle,” she repeated, then lowered her gaze to the center of his body to illustrate what she was calling him.
While he was amused by it, the most astonishing part of all was that he felt his body stir. What the hell was that? She aroused him? How?
This mere slip of a human? Pasty pale girl who insulted him and looked at him as if he were dirt?
Yet there was no denying the sudden hunger he felt. Especially when he stepped closer and caught the scent of her dark brown hair that was tinted with just a hint of red in it. While she wore it tightly coiled about her head, he wondered what it would look like if it were free of that cantankerous knot that seemed to be an offense to the curls surrounding a face that was growing on him.
“Tell me, girl, why did you summon a ghede?”
“You heard me. What is it that a European daughter would want with one of us?”
Valynda hesitated as she realized he was staring down at the cross she wore about her throat. Her jaw went slack as she stepped back and took another look at the beautiful man in front of her.
Well over six feet in height, he wasn’t what they’d been told to expect. Dressed in a loose fitting light blue shirt, he had a sun-kissed caramel skin that covered a body taut with rippling muscles. Amber eyes that were soulful and searing with their intelligence and poignancy. A riot of dark shoulder length curls framed a face that had been sculpted to masculine perfection. Indeed, she’d never seen anyone more handsome. There was an air about him of power and charisma unlike anything she’d ever beheld before. Something that made her want to walk into his arms and at the same time it was terrifying.
Because there was no doubt that he was equally as lethal. And his fashion showed that he didn’t give a fig what others thought of him. Indeed, he had a number of long pheasant feathers attached to his hair that fell over his chest to trail to his waist. Along with a light beard that gave him the appearance of one of the pirates her father’s stepbrother was so fond of convicting and hanging as a warning to others who dared to venture to their island.
Swallowing hard, Valynda shook her head. “You’re japing. You’re not really a ghede.”
He arched a brow as a devilish grin lifted one corner of those delectable lips. A low, musical laugh rumbled from his chest. “I’m not just any ghede, gel. I’m the leader of the dead.”
Now she knew he was messing with her. Rolling her eyes, she crossed her arms over her chest. “On with you now. I’ve no time for this.”
“You don’t believe me?”
“That a ghede has nothing better to do than scare schoolgirls? Nay, sir, I don’t believe you. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I needs see about my friends.”
As she started to leave, he appeared in front of her.
Startled, Valynda pulled up short. “How did you do that?”
His grin turned teasing. “Told you. I’m Ghede Nibo.” He held a small silver ring toward her. “You’ve intrigued me, Valynda Moore. Check on your friends and when you’re ready to learn more about me, call my name . . . without the theatrics.”
An instant later, he was gone and the ring was on her finger.
Valynda stood beneath the light of the full moon in complete shock. Gaping, she held the ring up to see the skull and crossbones that had been impressed deep into the band. It was beautiful, in a morbid way. Clean and beautiful.
A ring of mourning.
“How did he know my name?”