The Merkabah Temptation (sneak peek)

 

THE MERKABAH TEMPTATION

A dating website is leaving a trail of desiccated bodies and Daphne Sites is on the case. But following the string of clues requires working with the man who broke her heart.

As if that wasn’t difficult enough, Daphne must contend with a shady magician, a vicious hellhound, a sex-obsessed predator, and S.J.’s ancient enemy. Not to mention the other misguided beings—human and otherworldly—that keep Daphne on her empathic toes.

From the city morgue to San Francisco’s Chinatown to a Napa valley winery, Daphne suspects there is more at stake than she bargained for.

Review by Shade Tree Book Services

The Merkabah Temptation is the third book in the Merkabah Series by L.Z. Marie. I have had the privilege of reading all three novels and loved them all. Each of the novels built on the previous novel(s), continuing to develop the central characters and the central plot of the series. The entire series is based on the ancient demi-gods and demons that date back to the tales and stories are written as far back as the Babylonian and Sumerian. Because of this, fans of ancient history get a kick out of reading this delightful spin on the ancients and their foibles.

The story between Daphne, the introverted doctoral candidate/college professor, and S. J., the demi-god/Nephilim heats to a boil as the “Watchers” seem to become more involved in the love affair between a human and a Watcher. This is only the sideline to the action-filled storyline as Daphne’s powers as a Merkabah continue to increase and she continues to fight the demons that are co-habiting earth with us mere earthlings.

The pages almost turn themselves with the speed of the story, as you run to keep up with the monsters and heroes flashing through the pages. Yes, the novel will stand alone and is enjoyable to itself, but for full enjoyment and deepest understanding of all the innuendo, reading all three novels is highly recommended.

The love interest is hot and heavy and will leave the faint of heart short on breath. The bedroom scenes steam and leave you wondering why L.Z. pulled the shades when she did. But then I guess we still need to wonder what really happens between gods and man.

This series is a unique storyline and one that deserves telling. It is light but scary. It is fun but enlightening. Like the teacher she is, she shares knowledge in a new and unique way, allowing you to have fun in the process. She makes you want to read and read more. I love her style. It is fresh, captivating, and I am hoping that she will find one more book for this series to answer the final question of love between demi-gods and man.

Check out Pinterest pics providing inspiration!

sneak peek

THE MERKABAH TEMPTATION

Six Hours Earlier Across Town

 

I found the perfect woman, thought Martin Moore. She’s gorgeous, smart, and sexy.

He ran his fingers through the blonde tendrils brushing across his bare chest.

The woman dragged a pink tongue over her lips and smiled. “You’re amazing. Do it again.”

Martin flexed a bicep.

“Perfection,” she said.

Martin took pride in his physique. He had gone from ho-hum to hottie in a year thanks to weight lifting, daily workouts, and a strict protein and vegetable diet. Between his promotion at work and grueling fitness routine, Martin had finally reaped the benefits of his hard work. Money and babes.

Women crawled out of the woodwork. They were suckers for abs and pecs. And his Beemer. Got their panties wet. Martin banged the hell out of all of them. ’Bout time. He never scored in high school and only got lucky with the girls high on booze and pills in college.

A year after bulking up, Martin realized women were more interested in his bank account than his sperm count. He had found one bitch on his computer perusing his statements when she thought he was taking a post coital snooze. Hot as she was, he kicked her out of his condo. Another gold digger had faked her orgasms. A third kept asking for a loan.

Martin’s coworker told him about a new dating site where sex—dirty, nasty, kinky, no-limits sex—was the name of the game.

Find yourself a fuck-buddy, his co-worker said. Women on this site aren’t interested in relationships or nabbing a guy for his stock portfolio. Got me three now. Monday and Wednesday I give it to Lorna when her husband ain’t home. Tuesday and Saturday it’s nasty time with a hot little redhead who goes by the name of Rouge. Friday and Sunday is with—well, never mind, she wouldn’t want you knowing.

Martin Moore went back to his office to check out the site. He had his first date the next day. She called herself Lolita and he gave it to her all night long. She waved goodbye in the morning. Didn’t even want breakfast.

Martin lost count of the women after two months. Didn’t matter though, the thrill of a different one almost every night satisfied his needs.

But this one—the babe riding him tonight—she was different. A keeper. With eyes as green as grapes, lips like cherries, and tits like melons, she was fast becoming a favorite.

Martin grabbed her ass. He wanted to tell her she was special. He hoped the feeling was mutual. He chuckled, imagining his response when people asked how he met his wife—because for once in Martin’s life he believed he had found The One.

“Baby, you wear me out. No more jism juice after the third time.”

The love of Martin Moore’s life arched her back and stretched her arms high in the air. “Puleeze. I can’t get enough of you.”

He felt her pelvic muscles tighten around him. Kegel might just be the greatest man in the world, he thought.

“Baby, I can’t.”

The woman pouted. “I have Viagra.”

Martin laughed. The woman was insatiable.

Ten minutes later they were back at it again. Martin felt invincible—the drug was amazing. Not only was his dick as hard as a rock, he felt spectacular.

Martin didn’t recall when his mind began to drift, when his brain detached from his body, and he felt only a glorious pulling-tugging-sucking on his member.

He tried speaking but the sensation overpowered him, lifted him upwards, carried him to the furthest realms of pleasure.

Death by orgasm. If he had been able, he might have burst out laughing. But he didn’t.

Martin Moore was dead.

 

Chapter 1

Saturday

 

“I refuse to be the other woman.”

“Maybe you misunderstood. You did have a crazy week in Ecuador, Daphne.”

“There was no misunderstanding. Zahra said I remind S.J. of his wife.” I took a sip of sugar-infused coffee.

Serik Jalani—S.J. for short—is my mentor and protector. He’s a Nephilim; half human, half fallen angel. Which is a friendlier sounding word for demon.

“I can’t believe he’s married.” Rose, sitting on the porch steps next to me, gave my shoulder a sisterly pat.

“How much for the dog?” Swathed in double knit polyester, a woman considered the white fluff ball at my feet.

“My dog is not for sale.” I gestured to the furniture scattered about, the assorted knick-knacks spread on two folding tables in the front yard. “All the other stuff is.”

Polyester Lady wrapped her hand around a tall vase. “I’ll give you five bucks.”

“That’s a cloisonné vase from Posh & Plenty. I paid a hundred dollars for it.”

The vase wasn’t authentic but it was a convincing knockoff.

“Ten bucks.”

Polyester Lady and I dickered until agreeing on fifteen dollars. I’m terrible at haggling.

Rose scooted close. She held a half-eaten donut in one hand and a lukewarm coffee in the other. “Have you spoken to him since returning?”

“No. He called a few times but I didn’t answer.”

My relationship with S.J. was complicated. At least for me. I was inexplicably drawn to my protector the first time we met. His good looks, strength, and intelligence might be the reason. And maybe his muscular physique. I certainly did not intend to fall in-love with him. I almost did. That was until Zahra—another Nephilim—told me he was married.

“Why not?” She nibbled on a donut.

“I didn’t want to listen to his excuses.”

“You don’t want to hear the classic my-wife-doesn’t-understand-me or the we’ve-grown-apart lies?” Rose nudged me with her elbow. “Can’t say I blame you, but what I don’t understand is why you’re getting rid of this stuff. Your house is practically empty now. I don’t get it. You loved it all when you bought it.”

“I’m only selling the items with negative energy.”

I’m an empath and we react to the subtle energies and emotions of people and objects. Seventy-five percent of my furniture and most of my antique store finds oozed bad vibes.

“Oh look, they’re in a buying mood,” Rose said after a customized pick-up stopped in front of the Yard Sale sign.

A young couple emerged and made a beeline for the beryl-wood Bombay chest. Giggling and whispering, they circled the antique three times. The woman opened and closed the drawers.

It was obvious the couple was still in the throes of that gushy in-love stage. I remembered the feeling. A giddy rush, the need to look into your beloved eyes, to stay by their side, to—ahem. That feeling dissolves like acetone mixed with nail polish when one discovers the guy you’re falling in love with is m-a-r-r-i-e-d.

I glanced at my bare nails, currently free from the shiny varnish of infatuation.

“Looks like I have a buyer for the Bombay,” I said.

Rose exhaled loudly. “What happened in Ecuador? Why did you really quit?”

I see dark matter. Or, more specifically, I sense life forms from the netherworld. S.J. recruited me as the newest (and youngest) member whose responsibility is ridding earth of hostile aliens. Working with him the last few weeks had been a surreal ride on a cosmic rollercoaster. But now I wanted off.

“I quit because the job isn’t for me.” Vague girl strikes again!

Telling my sister I had been attacked by mosquito-people, destroyed a mansion, and served as a snack to a mutant might upset her. Confessing the worse mishaps would certainly freak her out.

S.J.’s having a wife was another reason for quitting. A big reason.

“Is that why you don’t wear the merkabah necklace anymore?”

The merkabah is a cosmic technology opening up a wormhole to the universe. This Egress Portal Device vacuums up dangerous entities. Only a chosen few are able to operate the Cosmic Critter Catcher—something to do with empathic abilities and a weird brain anomaly. Of which I have both.

By concentrating, my body amplifies electrical and magnetic forces, channeling and activating the merkabah. I was a kind of a cosmic crime fighter but without the super powers, super strength, or super ego. The job was frightening, dangerous, and I’ve ruined more perfectly good shoes.

“I gave it back to Zahra when we landed in Los Angeles.”

Threw it at her was the more accurate description.

Rose made an I-don’t-believe-you face before shouting to the lovebirds. “Marble top and beryl. Cost my sister a thousand dollars. It’s yours for a hundred.” She poked me in the ribs. “What’s wrong with it?”

“I told you, I’m getting rid of everything that feels bad. I sense anger from the Bombay.”

“The wood is angry?”

“Not quite.”

“Explain.”

“The wood soaked up the previous owner’s anger. Or whatever she kept inside made her furious.”

“You know a woman owned it?”

“That’s the feeling I get.”

“You’re weird,” Rose licked donut sugar off her fingers.

“Thanks, just what I needed to hear.”

“Is getting vibes from furniture and stuff new? Seems like your feelings have increased in the past few weeks. Is this the merkabah’s doing or S.J.’s?”

“Both. After returning from Ecuador my empathy abilities skyrocketed.” I shrugged. “They’ve decreased every day since then.”

“Did you drink some funky jungle juice?”

“Something like that.” I bit my lip and glanced away.

Danger and near-death experiences are powerful aphrodisiacs.

The Watchers—the secret organization S.J. and I work for—forbid us from having a sexual relationship because it messes with my brain chemistry. The Watchers were a hundred percent correct. It heightened both my empathic and sensory perceptions. At least temporarily.

“You love him,” Rose smacked my thigh to punctuate her point.

“I do not!”

“You’re a bad liar.”

“There’s nothing wrong with the Bombay.” I directed this comment to the lovebirds still feeling up my antique.

“My wife says the drawers don’t slide well,” Young Hubby said.

“It’s over a hundred years old and wood swells in humidity. You live around here?”

“Across town in the new development.” Young Hubby wrapped his arms around wifey-poo. “You’ve got a sweet little place so close to the beach. Why are you selling all this great stuff? Are you moving?”

“Re-decorating.”

In addition to returning from Ecuador in a major funk, I realized my second-hand furniture and thrift store treasures bothered me, their residual energy, imbued with emotions from past owners, pervading my little house. My once peaceful home had transformed into an emotional traffic jam, the negative vibes causing a truckload of anxiety.

I, of course, blamed myself. The Nephilim sensitivity spike—courtesy of S.J.—was the reason behind my heightened abilities. But it’s damn near impossible to resist a Nephilim. Even though the super sensitivity faded after a few days, I decided a spiritual house cleaning was in order.

Young Hubby scratched his head. “Fifty bucks.”

Sheesh, I really hated bartering. Empathic feelings swamp me. I sense the buyers desire to get the best deal, feel their need to save a buck, or intuit their want to have fun at my expense. I should have let Rose handle this.

“Hey, you look familiar,” said Young Hubby. “Ah, now I remember.” He tapped his temple. “I had you for one day!”

Rose spit out her coffee.

“You did?” I smiled. I knew exactly what he referred to.

“Three years ago. Freshman comp. I had a scheduling conflict so I dropped your class.”

“Did you graduate?”

“Yeah, transferred to State a year later. Graduated in computer engineering and got a job at Global Technologies.”

Wrong answer. Computer engineers make oodles more than adjunct professors.

“A hundred dollars. Take it or leave it.”

Sweet Wifey whispered in his ear.

“Sold.” He pulled out his wallet.

I asked Rose to handle the monetary transactions while I brewed more coffee. It was also a way to escape Rose’s grilling me about S.J.

While waiting for the coffee I went into the bedroom to gaze at the source of all my confusion. The merkabah.

Evidently, one doesn’t up and quit working for the Watchers, because the day after throwing the merkabah at Zahra I found it on my kitchen table.

I mailed it first-class to Casa de Playa—the hotel S.J. calls home—only to find it hanging from the peg on my bathroom door two days later. After that I hand delivered it to the hotel’s front desk, wrote I quit on the package, and asked the clerk to make certain Mr. Jalani received it. A few hours later, the merkabah was back in my house. This time my dog was wearing it around her neck. I figured the merkabah was equipped with a homing device. Or maybe someone rather I not quit. I since gave up trying to return it.

When I joined Rose outside five minutes later a middle-aged housewife in fuchsia sweat pants was fondling my knick-knacks.

Rose took the proffered coffee. “You can admit you fell in-love with S.J.”

She was relentless when it came to prying.

“Drop it.”

“Fine, we won’t talk about him anymore. But honestly, I can’t believe you’re shirking your responsibilities. That’s not like you. How can you give up this cool job of ridding the world of evil crypti-killers?”

“Cryptivita—hidden life.”

“Whatever. You’re mad and hurt. S.J. lied to you. I understand how you’re feeling but that’s no reason to—”

“He’s my mentor and protector. I’m supposed to trust him with my life.”

“You’re still alive.”

“He used me.”

“Guys suck.” Fuchsia Pants lifted up a gilded bookend. “My ex is self employed. Hid all his money from the IRS. Now he’s shacked up with a young yoga instructor half his age.” She waved a five-dollar bill in the air. “I’ll give you two dollars.”

A tornado of anger swirled around Fuchsia Pants.

“Sold.” Rose made change, oblivious to the woman’s maelstrom of rage.

“Daphne,” Rose said after Fuchsia Pants drove away, “you have this amazing gift. Use it. Ask for another mentor. But for the love of God, don’t reject your responsibility.”

This weird brain anomaly allowing me to sense alien life may be a gift but it felt like a curse. Although, there were a few perks.

“The Watchers can find someone else to activate the merkabah,” I said.

“You’re being obstinate and stupid. Unless there’s some important reason you’re keeping from me.”

Yeah. Lots. I looked away. “The dean asked if I wanted to pick up a class during the summer. I start on Monday. I couldn’t fly off on a mission with S.J. even if I wanted to.”

“Mmmph.” Rose peered into the mug. “It’s been two weeks, right?”

I nodded, two weeks is an eternity in heartbroken time.

“Here’s my advice—”

“I don’t want any.”

“Too bad. That’s what sisters do. They give advice you don’t ask for.”

“And don’t need.”

“Oh, you need advice and this is it: Embrace your power. Go wherever the Watchers send you. Do your merkabah twirly magic. Don’t allow fear or anger to destroy your destiny.”

“And S.J.?”

“Ice him. Be aloof—you do aloof well. Act like it doesn’t matter. It will hurt for a few weeks but after awhile the pain of his betrayal will go away. I mean, after all, it’s not as if you two were a couple or had a real relationship. You just met him and barely know him.”

Her words stung because she was right.

“Easier said than done.”

“No shit. Does the advice sound familiar?” She jabbed me in the shoulder. “Because you told me the exact same thing a year ago after I found out He-That-Shall-Not-Be-Named cheated on me with one of my employees.”

“Speaking of your love life, are you still dating Jim?”

Rose had hooked up with my vet while I was in Ecuador. After an emergency operation to remove my sister’s thong from my pooch’s stomach they had began dating.

“Yeah, we’re taking it slow.”

“That’s smart.” I rubbed Foo’s belly, careful to avoid the scar. She was much happier now the cone was off her head.

“It’s not by choice. Our work schedules are hectic. We see each other about twice a week—his practice keeps him busy, especially lately. There’s been a bunch of bird attacks the last few days.”

“What sort of attacks?”

“A giant bird with a weird scream—”

“That’s how they described the sound? A scream?” My life had taken a bizarre turn, my naïve ideas of reality forever destroyed by knowledge that we three dimensional-dwelling humans live in an unknowable multi-dimensional world. A frightening and often wicked world.

“An unearthly scream. The bird attacks at night—just dive bombs for their dog. Jim called other vets in town. Same story. It’s like something from the movie The Birds.”

Oh-oh.

My gaze lifted to the cloudless sky. Eagles, hawks, and owls were known to attack tiny dogs but the tightening in my stomach suggested another possibility.

My guess? A harpy. Possibly the same one that almost snatched my dog a few weeks ago.

Harpies are human-bird hybrids with an unquenchable appetite. The fierce scavengers’ infamy stemmed from their habit of stealing food from the hungry crew of Greek heroes Jason and Aeneas.

In the Cryptivita Directory—the Who’s Who of the netherworld—harpies received a domestic classification and a mild nuisance rating.

“You know something.” Rose tilted her head. “Is the bird a cryptivita? And if it is, can you get rid of it?”

“It might be a harpy. As for using the merkabah on it, I’m not sure.”

If the bird belonged in this world, I wasn’t certain whether wormhole extraction was possible. I still had lots to learn about this cosmic commission.

“Daphne!” My neighbor’s sugar-sweet voice was an octave higher than usual. “I have fabulous news!”

I peered over my coffee cup to see Tiffany—bouncy boobs exploding from her crop top—sashay across my front yard.

“Hi Tiffany, sorry if all the bargain shoppers woke you this morning. I didn’t realize people were going to show up at six in the morning.”

She flapped her hand, the rhinestones in her manicure sparkling in the light. “Didn’t hear a thing,” she giggled. “Because someone keeps me up all night.”

Yuck! Someone was my ex-husband Randy. He and my ditzy neighbor hooked up after her demon cat was run over by a drunk driver. Randy’s good at consoling women. He’s a serial consoler.

“You want anything? Take it.” I pointed to the yard sale leftovers.

Tiffany offered a pity smile. “No thanks. Um…” She stared at her pedicure-perfect feet. “I was excited to tell you but now…”

“Spit it out.” Rose spoke over her shoulder while rearranging the ugly whatnots.

“Randy and I are getting married.”

“What?” My response sounded like a strangled squawk.

“I know we’ve only been dating a few weeks but well…something happened.” Tiffany moved her hand over her flat belly.

I struggled to smile. No, not that. Please, not that.

“I’m pregnant.”

Congratulations is the socially recommended and approved comment for situations like this. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my response.

“Are you sure? What are you, like four days late?”

Tiffany tilted her head. “Wow, you’re good. It’s five days.”

“Did you take a pregnancy test?” asked Rose.

Tiffany put her hands on her hips. “Yes. Twice. I thought you would be happy for me! You both sound kind of annoyed.”

My womanizing ex-husband knocks up my gold-digging neighbor and I’m supposed to be happy? Well, now that I thought about it they did make the perfect couple. Tipsy and Dipsy.

I gazed at her abs. “It’s a girl.”

Tiffany’s eyes grew wide. “Oohh! A girl! I always wanted a little girl. How can you tell?”

“It’s just a gut feeling.” Somehow, I knew there was a little girl forming inside her.

Rose did the right thing, she gave Tiffany a hug. “Congratulations! When’s the wedding?”

“Randy said he already had the big expensive wedding,” Tiffany arched a groomed eyebrow for my benefit, “but I’ve never been married before. I want it all. The dress, the cake, the flowers, the party. And I want to look good in my wedding dress so we’re getting married before I start showing. We’re looking at venues today.” She turned back to the house, waved at Randy. “Be there in a sec, Boo Bear.”

A cough covered my laugh. I could sense my ex-husband’s sheepishness and worry, but maybe that was wishful thinking. I didn’t know if my empathic skills were accurate from this distance.

Randy lifted his hand before hiding in his corvette. Looks like he might have to trade the babe wheels for a baby mobile.

“Time to go. Talk to you later.” Tiffany headed back to her sperm donor.

Rose opened her mouth—I sensed a snarky comment about Tiffany—when someone called my name.

“Daphne.”

I recognized the voice. He always appeared without warning. Usually from a tree. Not behind a tree. From a tree.

“Jack.” I looked over my shoulder.

Jack is the iconic Green Man; part human, part nature, a one-with-nature being who assisted the Watchers. He was Wisdom and Comfort all wrapped up in a wrinkled brown five-foot six-inch package. Jack taught me to harness my energy and control the merkabah. He provided a little slice of heaven with a big scooping of Zen.

I lowered my head to receive Jack’s kiss on the top of my head. He claimed it stimulated the sahasrara, the crown chakra linked to the Pineal gland and responsible for healing, spirituality, and divinity. Mine was sealed shut.

Jack wound gnarled fingers around my hand. “Enough moping, my dear. You have a dead body to evaluate.”

 

Chapter 2

 

Dead body equals death by cryptivita. At least for those in the merkabah business.

“I’m not doing this anymore,” I shook my head and frowned.

“Pfft.” The creases in his face crinkled even more. “Why aren’t you wearing the merkabah?”

Wearing the pendant made me hyper intuitive. Not a feeling one wanted to have while selling negative-vibing merchandise to bargain-hunting shoppers.

“I quit. I’m done. Finito.” I had to stand my ground, no matter how compelling Jack’s reasons.

“Impossible. Nobody quits working for the Watchers. This isn’t a job; it’s a destiny. You must evaluate the body and confirm the cryptivita responsible for the murder last night.”

“You mean confirm, locate, and extract.”

“Of course you have to extract the creature responsible, it’s your destiny.” Jack sat down beside me.

Destiny. My least favorite word at the moment.

“Tell the Watchers to find themselves another merkabah recruit,” I said. “Someone who thinks that living dangerously is fun.”

“There is no one else in this part of the country.”

“Fly one in. I hear there’s a few working New Orleans.”

“You’re not a quitter, my dear.”

I held up one finger. “I quit my marriage.” Second finger. “I quit writing my dissertation.” Third finger. “I quit trying to knit.” Fourth finger. “I quit—”

“You are not a quitter. Those were rational decisions based on morals, interests, and aptitudes.”

No wonder I liked Jack.

“Did you know S.J. is married?”

“Yes.” Jack’s voice was soft.

“You never thought to tell me?”

Jack took my coffee away, set it down, and squeezed my hand. “I do not interfere in the lives of Nephilim.”

“You interfere in mine.” I stared at his fingers, the twiggy digits resembling tree bark. “You should have warned me.”

“There is much you do not understand.”

I yanked away and stood up. “I’m tired of that excuse. You. S.J. The Watchers. You all keep secrets. Too many secrets.”

Jack leaned back, his limbs stretched out over my porch steps. “Secrets above your pay grade.”

“I don’t get paid.”

“Not true.” Jack pointed to the street. “Ah, just in time.”

A delivery truck from a pricy furnishing store stopped in front of my house.

“I didn’t order anything.”

“S.J. purchased new furniture. It’s all crafted with positive energy from magical wood.”

“You can’t—”

“The Watchers need you. S.J. needs you. Your town needs you,” Jack patted my leg and stood.

“How did you know I was getting rid of my furniture?” Did the Watchers spy on me? Did they use a cosmic surveillance system?

“You’ve got flyers up all over town.”

Oh.

While watching Rose intercept two deliverymen ambling up the sidewalk, I rubbed my temples. “My head hurts.”

“Meditate,” said Jack.

It was his standard reply. According to Jack, meditation was the answer to every problem.

“You Daphne Sites?” asked Burly Delivery Man.

“That’s me.”

He held out the clipboard. “Need your signature, ma’am.”

My finger ran down the list—one bed, two nightstands, chest of drawers, two lamps, kitchen table, four chairs, couch, armchair, end table, coffee table—and gasped at the price. I know bribery when I see it.

Jack, now leaning against a nearby tree with arms crossed, beckoned me to join him.

I scribbled my name at the bottom of the invoice. “Rose, will you handle this? Jack and I need to talk.”

“How do I know where you want the stuff?” she asked.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m certain Jack will tell me if it’s not energistically situated.”

“Is she one of those Feng Shui believers?” asked the deliveryman as I walked away.

“Worse,” said Rose.

I folded my arms while watching the sofa go by. “What makes this furniture so special?”

“Tibetan Buddhist monks handcrafted these pieces from yew, tulipwood, and European walnut.”

“Magic enlightened trees?”

“Naturally. The yew’s magical qualities prompted the ancient Celts to craft wands and bows from its branches. Walnut, my dear, emits an introspective energy encouraging intuition and connection with the earth. Tulipwood is the tree of the Goddess. Not only does it promote creativity, personal energy, and instinct, it’s the wood most used for divination.”

I doubted the need to predict anyone’s future but a gal can always use more introspection, creativity, and energy.

“Will the furniture stop the dreams?”

“Not likely,” said Jack. “Are they growing more troublesome?”

“They’re becoming weirder, like an out of body experience.”

“Soul travel?”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“Your spirit travels to a distant place or time.”

“Isn’t that called soul transmigration?”

“You’ve been reading.” Jack’s smile was infectious. “But transmigration is not the same as soul travel. For soul transmigration to occur you must be dead.”

Oh. “What is soul travel?”

“Mmmm. Difficult to explain. It has to do with time, space, spirituality, and shifts in consciousness.”

“I’m only having vivid dreams.”

“A common merkabah side effect,” said Jack. “More meditation will help. Cleaning your spiritual air is important, dear one.”

Meditation required mental discipline. Not one of my strengths. The Zen Zone was still hit or miss. Reaching shamatha—calming of the mind— and vipashyana—insight—was essential for merkabah mediums. It allowed us to center ourselves, become one with the universe, and to simply Be. Meditation also helped a medium control the merkabah’s power. I was still getting the hang of it—both the merkabah and the meditation.

“I have a few questions.”

Jack nodded. “Naturally.”

“S.J. said the cryptivita don’t return home through the wormhole. Where do they go?’

Jack examined a tree leaf, ran his finger along the edges. “Ask S.J.”

“I’m not speaking to him anymore.”

“That’s unfortunate. Do you have another question I won’t answer?”

“Why doesn’t Zahra like me?”

Zahra was S.J.’s cousin.

Jack sniffed the leaf. “She’s jealous.”

“Why? She shouldn’t be jeal—wait a minute—is she really his cousin?”

“That’s the closest earth word.”

Ack! According to S.J. and Jack, earth vocabulary was primitive, barely addressing the plethora of cosmic phenomena surrounding us.

“How is Zahra related to S.J?”

Jack set my hand against the tree trunk. “Do you feel the tree hum—can you feel its energy?”

“No. I see a line of ants crawling up the trunk.”

“Naturally. You’re not ready. S.J. will tell you when your mind is able to handle the information. Enough questions. We need to discuss the dead body.”

“Can’t wait.”

“Sarcasm is not conducive to positive energy.”

“Sorry,” I said as the deliverymen carried the kitchen table into the house. “What makes you think the death is cryptivita related?”

“The condition of the body is unusual.”

“Was the person killed by an Aswang?” That had been my first experience with deadly cryptivita. Nothing like being initiated into one’s destiny with a gruesome Aswang murder. “Were the heart and liver removed?”

“The body is intact. You must see it for yourself.”

“Where is it?”

“The city morgue.”

I wrinkled my nose. “I have to go to a morgue? Since when do they allow strangers without credentials to waltz in and examine a body?”

“Someone will accompany you.”

“When?”

“Later tonight.”

“Ma’am?” A gruff voice shouted from the porch.

I turned my head. “Yes?”

“You need to verify the condition of the furniture when we’re done.”

“OK.” I turned back to Jack. “Ja—”

He was gone.

“Jack.” I pulled aside a branch. “I hate it when you disappear like that. I know you’re in here.”

Jack, the embodiment of Nature, hitched rides on flowers, melded into trees, and concocted lifesaving remedies from shrubs. He appeared and disappeared from my life with increasing regularity.

While the deliverymen finished unloading the Zen-tastic new furniture, Rose and I packed up the remaining yard sale items for the local charity.

An hour later, with the yard sale over, furniture arranged, invoice signed, and delivery truck gone, I plopped onto the new pale gray Chesterfield sofa.

Tres chic.” Rose sat opposite.

“The house feels better. Lighter. All the vibes from the antiques weighed me down.”

“That might explain why you’ve been different the past few weeks.” Rose fluffed up the down pillow.

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know if I can explain it. You seem more influenced by your surroundings but less concerned about material things. When was the last time you shopped for shoes?”

“Yesterday.” I didn’t tell her that instead of sky-high heels I bought a pair of athletic shoes.

“Some things never change.” Rose laughed, ran her hand over the coffee table. “S.J. has good taste. Rustic contemporary, I like it. It’s a nice way to compensate you.” She dug a wad of bills from her pocket. “Here’s the yard sale money.”

“Let’s split it, I couldn’t have managed without you.”

“What did Jack want?” Rose began counting.

“He wants me to go to the morgue, look at a dead body, and figure out what happened.”

“Ewww. Do your feelings about people work when they’re dead?”

“I don’t know. Guess I’ll find out.”

“Do you think the Watchers will assign you another protector?”

“I hope so, but if not I’ll pretend S.J.’s cheating ways don’t bother me one bit.”

“Good girl.”

“As a matter of fact, I even have a date tonight.”

Rose pushed a wrinkled stack of dollar bills across the table. “Glad you’re moving on. Who is he?”

“A physics professor.” I hoped the old money didn’t infect my new furniture.

“Yuck. Physics. Really? Do you have anything in common?”

“We both work at the community college.”

“A match made in heaven.” Rose stood up. “I need to stop by the deli. Keep my employees on their toes.” She grabbed a super-sized handbag and stuffed her half of the cash inside. “Be strong, Daphne. No more wallowing.”

“I do not wallow.”

“No? You looked upset when Tiffany said she was pregnant and marrying Randy.”

“I was surprised, that’s all.”

“I’m not!”

We burst out laughing, then hugged our goodbyes on the front porch.

As Rose walked to her car, my gaze moved left to Tiffany’s house. Pregnant Tiffany. Expecting-a-bundle-of-joy Tiffany.

I should be happy for my neighbor. I wanted to be happy for her. But I wasn’t. Her pregnancy set in motion an avalanche of anxiety about my future. I was twenty-eight-years-old. What were the chances of an alien-finding empath having a normal life? A doting hubby, cute babies, chocolate chip cookie-making Saturday mornings; was that too much to ask?

Ghost Granny waved to me from Tiffany’s front porch. Did she know her granddaughter intended to move away? Did ghosts follow their relatives from house to house?

Selfish homeowner mode overshadowed my concern for Ghost Granny when I realized Tiffany might use the house as a vacation rental. Of course, living next to my ex-husband was the worst-case scenario.

I waved back to Ghost Granny and looked up into the sky. A lone seagull rode the airy currants in the cloudless blue. The sea breeze saturated the air. Another tourist-perfect day. Nothing to fear.

Unless you’re an empath.

Once darkness descended, the world changed. Netherworld creatures emerged from the shadows and hungry harpies preyed upon little dogs.

I scooped up Foo. “You’re staying inside tonight. That bird already attacked once, it’ll do it again.”

I headed for the bedroom. New nightstands meant re-organization.

My old bed was gone, the thrift store headboard replaced by one with a somber almost reverent design. A Bed as Temple vibe suffused the small room.

I sighed. The old bed was where S.J. and I first…

Well, that wasn’t going to happen again. Never. Nope.

I don’t mess around with another woman’s husband. Having been on the receiving end myself, I understood a wife’s pain.

I set a candle on the nightstand and ran my hand up the length of the lamp. Its hammered silver lines emitted a sense of the sacred. My bedroom had become a bastion of tranquility—with a dash of the devout.

“I hope you tone down the dreams,” I said to the sanctified sleeping space.

The furniture exhaled its promise.

I took the merkabah necklace off the hook and watched it twirl. I wasn’t a roll-with-the-punches kind of girl. The danger, romance, pleasure, pain, horror, and joy galloping like wild mustangs through my life the past few weeks wore me out.

This alien technology, this nebula necklace, filled my days with crazy. And yet, oddly enough, I felt good wearing it.

Seven stones within the star were motionless, suspended in a weightless stasis. Hematite, onyx, amber, peridot, lapis lazuli, turquoise, and alexandrite corresponded to the seven chakras. Inactive stones indicated a cryptivita-free zone. Spinning and revolving stones signaled cosmic trouble. The orbs always confirmed my body’s intuitions, validating the pangs of anxiety and shivers in my spine.

With a few hours to kill before my date, I deposited the celestial charm on the dresser and picked up my least favorite book, the Cryptivita Directory. A modern bestiary of crazed chimeras, animorphic creatures, and deranged demons living among us, each page contained illustrations, culture, origin, physical abilities, powers, manifestations, earthly or unearthly classification, and threat level. It was a terrifying read.

I carried the freak-lopedia into the living room hoping the mystical furniture might sooth my overactive imagination. I glanced into the eight-foot mirror propped against the wall. It reflected a confident woman. Mirrors lie.

I poured over the harpy page, found no reason for the attacks, and flipped to the index. Griffins, cockatrices, and Ba-Birds, although rare, were also possible suspects. Mystery unsolved, I tossed the Cryptivita Directory on the coffee table.

Time to gussy-up for the new guy.

First date dressing was problematic. Clothing spoke volumes. Too much cleavage suggested dime store novella. Not enough shouted boring textbook. Straddling the line between casual and dressy; the bane of a fashionista’s existence.

I rejected clothes worn with S.J. because too many memories were attached to the fabric. And though it might be too soon to be dating, as any girl knows the best cure for a broken heart is a new man.

Rose was right, working for the Watchers changed me. Every day brought a bit more confidence, a smidgeon of control, and a morsel of spirituality.

I was still a bookish, anxiety-ridden, twenty-eight-year-old adjunct professor who couldn’t finish her thesis but I was OK with that. Mostly.

The Ecuador mission had hurled my insecurities in my face, forcing me to survive on adrenaline and instinct. Freeing myself from a cocoon of self-doubts was difficult, yet I was determined to emerge a confident butterfly. Unfortunately, most days, I felt more like a moth.

I finally settled on a pink frock with a demure neckline, then pondered my footwear options. Brock, the physics professor, was a few inches shorter than I. Flats made the dress frumpy-looking. Snakeskin wedges were the best choice. Did I care if my height made Brock uncomfortable?

Nope. I slid on the wedges.

The merkabah necklace went over my head, and my spirit received a kick in the cosmic pants.

A vacuum cleaner for the cosmos—those were the words S.J. used to explain it. A colossal understatement. Activating the merkabah was more akin to experiencing electric shock.

With a few minutes to spare before First Date Hell I took Foo to the backyard.

“Go potty.”

Big brown eyes regarded me with confusion.

“There’s a dog-eating harpy on the loose, Foo. You’re staying inside for the next few hours.”

Foo tilted her head and wagged her tail.

“Potty. Now.” I pointed to the grass.

My alpha dog position once again established, Foo bounded for the closest tree.

“Hurry up,” I said as she circled around, sniffing the grass for the best location.

Finicky dog mission accomplished, I sealed the doggie exit, and turned the deadbolt when a knock at the front door announced my date’s arrival.

Plastering a sexy smile on my face, I threw open the door. “Hi.”

The person standing before me wasn’t my date.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________Thanks for reading. You can find THE MERKABAH TEMPTATION  on Amazon!

 

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