Tamos's heart froze as he rounded the street corner. Looming over Hanzi and his straggly black street cat was a Mashudalo, a vicious slayer of flesh. The ancient monster reached out with his razor-sharp claws to grasp the toddler, intent on bringing him back to his dark world.
He would not be successful. Tamos pulled the energy of the wind, and sun, and nature into his body, strengthening it with gypsy magic, and then pushed with all his might. The Mashudalo screamed as he was flung back. An electric blue portal opened, sucking the creature in, and closed, blocking him from returning, the screams stopping abruptly as though someone had flicked a switch.
"Tamos!" The boy ran to him with dirty hands outstretched, his stray cat forgotten.
"Hanzi." Tamos, his heart still beating wildly, dropped to his knee, embracing the child. Hanzi was safe. He had arrived in time. Tamos rose, swinging him around as he would someday swing his own children... when his monisha was found. "You shouldn't be out." The streets weren't safe.
"The wind... it talked to me." His brown eyes were large and soulful, too wise for a child of his tender years.
"I know. It spoke to me also." It called to all gypsies. They could not help but heed it. "But next time, you follow it with your mother or father, yes?"
"Yes." The boy nodded, smearing his blackened hands on Tamos's white shirt.
Shandor, his number one man, skidded to a stop on the wet pavement, inches away from colliding with them. "The portal is closed, phral."
"Good." No more Mashudalo would be able to access their world through it, and it would take them weeks to find another portal.
"And the boardwalk you requested—" the big man huffed, his dark hair damp with perspiration, "—it has been located."
The boardwalk of his dreams had been located, and sitting upon that boardwalk, waiting for him, would be a blonde-haired gypsy with eyes the color of raw honey. He had searched for Cora his whole life. She would be the queen of his people, the mother of his children, his monisha, his love.
"Tonight, we rest, brothers." Grinning widely, Tamos held Hanzi with one arm, and hugged a surprised Shandor with the other. "For tomorrow, I do not sleep." He would spend it under the stars with his Cora.
By Cynthia Sax
Available Now From Changeling Press
Cora doesn't need a crystal ball to know the tall, dark stranger
standing in front of her is trouble. When he pays to have his fortune
told, she sees the two of them making passionate love. Tamos isn't
destined to be a transient lover. He's a man she could love for all
The problem is... Cora doesn't do love and she doesn't do eternity.
She likes her freedom. She isn't going to give that up for anyone, not
even the smooth-talking, knife-throwing, jail-springing king of the