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Cover Artist: Reese Dante
Love Beyond Loyalty © 2011 Rebecca Royce
ISBN # 9781920502157
This book uses US English.
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Gabriel stood outside his house. Like all his neighbors and most of the properties in North Shore, Louisiana, his home rested upon pillars meant to protect the structure from the flooding of the river during massive storms. Lord knew Louisiana weather could get out of hand fast. He wiped a hand over his sweating forehead before taking another sip of his Abita beer.
There was nothing like hard work and cold alcohol to make him feel tired on a hot, humid afternoon. He picked up his hammer and went back to work nailing the extra boards on to the pillars that held up his house.
Humming to himself, a tune he recognized as nothing other than musical nonsense, he hoped that the boards would take more of the brunt from the debris in the river the next time it flooded. Of course, he hoped it never flooded again, but it would be foolish to assume that would happen. For the first time in a long time, he felt really good about things on the home front. He set down his hammer, deciding he could give himself a brief break from the work he loved.
Smiling, he sat down on the riverbank and looked up at his house. He'd built it himself. When he'd purchased the property, it had been nothing but a beat-up lot with no home left standing on it. It had taken two years to get it where it was now. The smile fell from his expression as he ran a hand through his dark hair.
Was he just supposed to give it up?
That's what it would mean if he joined the Outsiders, who were forever in his thoughts, and became a real player in the battle to save humanity. He closed his eyes for a moment before opening them.
It wasn't that he didn't care about the struggle or the outcome; in fact, there was little he worried about more. But if he did what they wanted, if he embraced his heritage, and joined their world fully, there was no going back.
He didn't care what promises they made about a normal life when the battle was done. That would never come. No, if he gave in and joined them in Maine where they plotted, planned, and bit their nails over the upcoming war, he'd be saying goodbye to all of this—to everything he'd always valued.
That wasn't an easy thing for a man like him to do.
Raised alternatively in terrible foster homes or on the streets of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, he had sworn to himself that someday he would have a place to call his own. A home, that he owned, which he could live in and never have to leave.
So help him that was going to be
building. And, despite the fact that he knew he might be fighting a losing battle in resisting the Outsiders' call, he couldn't seem to bring himself to leave it. Not even to go engage in an epic struggle that had been raging long before he was born and would continue when he was six-feet under.
Sighing, he rubbed his nose when a fly swept past it. He knew the requisite evening phone call would come. Leonardo, the unofficial leader of the Outsiders, called him every night just to 'check in'. Gabriel wasn't stupid. He realized the guy was trying to wear him down. In some ways it was working. He was at least
about the subject of leaving on a regular basis. But Gabe was a stubborn bastard. Always had been.
The answer three months ago when the conversations had begun had been 'no' and it continued to be 'no' now.
Not to mention he couldn't leave Alexa. Even if she wasn't currently speaking to him.
When he'd first heard the notion that all Outsiders had soul mates, another Outsider picked by the Heavens to be their one and only love, he'd been intrigued and actually wondered for a while if his might be Alexa. He'd quickly dismissed the notion. One of the requirements for being a soul mate was an overwhelming sexual interest in the other person. When he looked at Alexa, he could see that she was pretty but did he want to fuck her?
She was the first friend he'd ever had. They'd met on the brutal streets of New Orleans and bonded over the fact that they could both do 'things' they shouldn't, as human beings, be able to do. But, while he had managed to resist the demon—Sebastian—that wanted to control them, she had not. Out of all of his problems, that one ranked first on his list and he had no idea how he'd handle it.
Sebastian was always impeccably dressed, most of the people of his acquaintance thought he was a kind, charitable person raised in the genteel south where men were called 'sir' and women 'ma'am'. Little did they know he was a hell beast called forth by an ancient prophecy to kill them all.
Those same people would probably suspect even less that he, Gabriel Ward, sometime carpenter, sometime plumber, sometime handyman, was actually a member of an almost dead race of people called upon to defeat Sebastian. The idea might be laughable if it wasn't so damn real.
He stood up and shook his hair, hoping some of the sweat would drip out before he refastened the tie. It was really fucking hot.
Walking to the river, he decided that maybe tomorrow he'd stop his construction and take his boat on the river to do some fishing. He didn't have much of a knack for fishing. All he ever caught were the Croakers and they made such a disastrous noise when he pulled them out of the river that he'd throw them back.
Still, for him, the point of the exercise was to spend the day out on the Gulf with his thoughts and no work to distract him. He stared down at the water. It was looking a little bit greener today than usual. Were they having an influx of some kind of moss or algae infestation? Admittedly, for living on the river, he knew little about these kinds of issues. Stealing money on the streets of the French Quarter to feed Alexa had not provided him with the right education when it came to marine life and water problems. Taking one last swig of his beer, he decided to do an Internet search when he got back to the cabin, and maybe buy some books on the subject.
It was so peaceful here he could stare out at the gentle swell of the water all day. He bit down on his lip as he rubbed his nose. Except today it wasn't gentle. Something caught his attention.
Narrowing his eyes, he tried to make sense out of what he was seeing. The water appeared to tremble. How much alcohol had he drunk? Kneeling down, he took another look. The river was, in fact, vibrating.
"What the hell?" Reaching out to lean over the bank to feel the water, it buzzed on the rough pads of his fingers.
Looking left, he sucked in his breath. "Holy shit."
He took two steps backwards as a scene he'd never thought to see in his life took place in front of his eyes. A giant tidal wave, the kind you saw on television after a tsunami hit, barreled down the thin canal of the river. No way. Not under any circumstances should that big of a wave be here on a perfect weather day in North Shore, Louisiana. Truly, the storm surges they got during hurricanes weren't that big.