The Eternal Trust

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The Eternal Trust

The Eternal Trust Trilogy – Book 1

Synopsis * Excerpt * Reviews


A unique paranormal romance of good battling evil.


Across time and dimension, soul mates bound by an ETERNAL TRUST battle to possess the vast power embodied within an ancient samurai sword … or choose love and live.


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Autographed Author’s Copies


Synopsis

“No man can resist the power of the sword …

No woman can resist the man who wields the power.”


Dorel Everly receives a legacy from her grandfather–a beautiful and beguiling samurai sword that brings the man she’s been waiting for into her life. Michael Gabrielli, airline pilot and former military special ops psychic spy, uses remote viewing to travel through time to find an ancient samurai sword that bestows vast power upon the owner. Dorel’s sword. He wants it and her, but his love could very well mean the death of both of them. Again.



Excerpt

Prologue

Taintinain, China – August 1945

Rockets screamed overhead, falling ominously silent just before the impact that rolled thunderous shock waves across the land. Smoke shrouded the Japanese garrison set ablaze in the Russian infantry’s attack. The following deadly hand-to-hand combat swiftly routed the occupying Japanese, sending the few survivors to scramble away with the Chinese civilians trying to escape the Russian invasion.

The Japanese commander couldn’t breathe for the chalky dust of the parade ground clogging his mouth. As he lifted his face out of the dirt and raised himself to his elbows, acrid smoke stung his eyes and he choked, spitting red into the soil. Using his sword to crutch himself to his knees, Baron Fusao Tsuji blinked down at the blood spreading across the chest of his khaki uniform. The next explosion blew him backward and he briefly lost consciousness again.

Knifing pain prodded Tsuji to turn away from the brilliant white light overwhelming the darkness before him. He opened his eyes, hearing sobbing gasps as she struggled to drag him to shelter. Do not fear, dear one he thought groggily, I live still.

This is not the time.

In the shadow of a mountain of rubble that had been their quarters during the long years of the Imperial Japanese occupation of China, his baroness knelt over him. Her beloved, tear-streaked face convulsed with grief.

"Fusao? Fusao, hear me. You must release the sword," his wife whispered inches above his lips. Her delicate fingers entwined with his on the handle of the samurai sword he clutched to his chest. "I know now to whom I must take it. That means this life is ending. Let it go, my love. I will take the sword to him. We will be separated only a moment then the sword and I will return to you. Like always."

His hand tightened on the sword. He couldn’t give it up. Not again.

"Please, Fusao, I do not have much time left. I must do this. You know I must," she pleaded, her voice breaking.

As he died, the last thing Baron Tsuji saw was his cherished wife’s desperate face, but his last thoughts were only of the sword she took from his limp hands.



Explosions rocked the temple, splintering the carved wooden beams supporting the gabled roof. Red tiles crashed into the courtyard, pocking the brick pavement already cluttered with the debris of war. Three men dashed through the boiling dust into the smoky interior of the temple.

"Set up the radio!" U.S. Navy Lt. Martin Everly ordered in Mandarin dialect. He turned his back on the two Chinese Resistance fighters and pointed his .45 Colt automatic at the doorway. "Hurry!" The two men crouched on either side of the radio and hand-cranked the generator. Martin grabbed the microphone, keeping his eyes on the entrance.

"Come in, Mother. This is Son. Over," he said in English. Static crackled and snapped. "Mother. This is Son. Come in."

Rapid gunfire rattled from the street amid the mounting shouts and screams.

"Mother. This is Son. Come in." He cut a glance at the two Chinese silently cranking the radio. They must be feeling as frantic as he, taking a big risk hiding him, helping him as the Japanese Army ran from the Russians. Stalin had declared war on Japan a week ago and hadn’t stopped his invasion of China, even though Japan’s Emperor Hirohito had ordered an unconditional surrender yesterday. The Russians were killing anyone Oriental, Imperial Japanese Army and Chinese civilians alike.

"Come in, Son. This is Mother, over," the radio crackled.

Mother. Your presence required my house now. Twenty-two hundred hours. Over."

"Roger, Son. Over and out."

"Over and out." Martin clicked off the microphone.

The men stopped cranking and stowed the radio for travel. He would be leaving it with them once they delivered him to the pick-up point. He’d like to give them more, but he couldn’t. He wasn’t sure he’d helped anyone. This OSS covert mission was meant to gather information for the Allies, not directly aid the locals. If anything, he’d endangered them further because they helped him. If the Russians caught him, he’d become an American prisoner of war. And his Chinese friends would join their ancestors.

They crept to the temple doors and waited in the shadows, watching frightened refugees scramble for safety in the street beyond the courtyard. A small figure in a peasant coolie hat and baggy leaf-green quilted pajamas escaped the smoke and staggered to the gate. Martin watched him lean on the hewn gatepost and glance behind him. Clutching his left side, he struggled across the courtyard toward their hiding place.

He fell into the temple doorway facedown at Martin’s feet.

Martin grabbed a handful of the rough cotton jacket and pulled the body deeper into the shadows. As he turned the man over, the hat fell back unleashing a cascade of shining black hair.

"Japanese woman!" growled one of the men and drew a long knife from under his jacket.

"Put that away!" Martin caught the man’s arm in midair, pushed him off and knelt over the woman.

Her dark eyes fluttered open and focused on Martin. Slowly, a smile edged the pain on her flawless pale face. "I find you again," she whispered in halting English.

Martin gently cradled her small form in his arms. Her expression crumpled and he saw the deep red stain blossoming on her side. Something hard pressed against his arm through the back of her jacket.

"You’ve found me?" Martin asked, intrigued.

She shuddered with her next breath. "You are Everly, yes?" Though he didn’t answer, she continued, "I Baroness Tsuji. The Guardian. I must give to you before …" She swallowed the choking cough bubbling in her throat. "Before I die."

Martin put his canteen to her lips, but she weakly waved it away.

"They come. I must give to you." She raised her small hand to her neck. "Please. Take from my back. I give to you."

Martin hesitated. The woman could be booby-trapped and blow them all to hell. Her imploring expression urged him to trust her. He reached into the back of her jacket and withdrew a Japanese samurai sword dangling from a red silk cord around her neck.

The two Chinese fell back with a collective hiss as Martin turned the beautiful weapon in his hands. The spiraling carved design of the black lacquer wooden scabbard hungrily absorbed the meager light. Even in the dimness he saw that the sword was very old. He was about to slide the scabbard off when she stopped him.

"No! It is not for you. You keep secret. For her. She know what do …"

He leaned closer to her lips. "Who am I supposed to keep the sword for?"

"Guardian. Your granddaughter. Help us, Everly. Teach her courage … no more killing. Break cycle. She save us all." Baroness Tsuji’s haunted eyes lost focus, the last breath escaping in a rattling sigh. Her body stilled as death claimed her, yet her beautiful, tormented face refused the smoothing hand of peace.

"We must go," urged one of his men.

Martin Everly hid the sword in the back of his shirt and pulled its red cord over his head and shoulder. A peculiar oppressiveness spread into his chest. As he led the men outside he wondered at the heavy cadence of destiny that pulsed through his body and an unfamiliar voice within awakened. Memories flooded his consciousness, reminding him that his fate was joined to the dead woman in the temple and to the sword riding against his back. This lifetime and before.



Chapter One

Seattle, Washington – The New Millenium


The sixty-day layoff warning hadn’t worried Dorel Everly. Boeing wouldn’t lay her off because she was a good engineer, her rapport too vital with the difficult but important customer. TransAsia Airlines wouldn’t allow Boeing management to replace her. Dorel had the highest totem rating an employee could receive. She’d believed she was safe until two days after her grandfather’s memorial service when Security escorted her out of her Customer Engineering cubical at the Everett, Washington factory.

It had to be a mistake, her manager assured her as she carried a single cardboard file box filled with framed certificates and excellence awards, a chipped 747-300 coffee cup and a two-hundred year old bonsai willow in a shallow raku dish that was last year’s Christmas gift from TransAsia. A month before she might have indulged in some pride about her accomplishments during her five years with the company, but today the box’s meager contents just made her want to cry.

Merging onto I-5 South, she discovered that the only benefit to leaving work early was that most of the traffic flowed in the opposite direction. Forty-two minutes later Dorel walked into the condo overlooking Elliot Bay just as the answering machine beeped and hung up.

She ignored it and went directly to her bedroom, eased the box down on a waist-high stack of others on the floor and carefully removed the bonsai.

"Well, don’t you look wholly unaffected and perfect as usual," she commented to the miniature tree and placed it on the dresser where it should get sufficient light from the glass door that opened to the wraparound terrace.

Maybe the bonsai would like being outside in the sunshine for awhile, she thought. I know I would if I’d been stuck under florescent office lights for months, and since I have, we’ll just get some sun together. Dorel slid the door open and carried the bonsai out to the wrought iron table, placing it in the shade of the large beige market umbrella. "I’ll grab a glass of wine and be right back," she called over her shoulder as she stepped inside and through the antiques and fine art-furnished condominium to the stainless steel kitchen.

Toying with the idea of cracking open something old and expensive from the well-stocked wine cellar, she instead opened the Sub-Zero refrigerator, pulled out a nearly empty bottle of cheap Australian chardonnay and tipped it into the crystal wine glass she’d used last night.

Passing back through the living room that was definitely not to her minimalist tastes, she noticed the answering machine’s slow blink. One message. Probably the one that came in when she got home. Dorel stood next to the machine, watching the hypnotic winking, and took a swallow of wine.

She had a hate-hate relationship with the phone these days. It only brought bad news or expressions of condolence that probably made the callers feel better than she did. The calls made her feel guilty for not being able to care for him herself, for not having spent every hour with her granddad. Even though she’d sat by his bedside each evening after work until the end of visiting hours, he hadn’t even known she was there. Martin had decided that the VA hospital in Tacoma was where he would get the care he needed at the price he could afford since his costly medical treatments for the last three years had taken everything he had, as well as Dorel’s savings.

Taking care of him was the least the government could do. Despite what the military claimed, she was convinced Martin’s top secret work on the Bikini Atoll atomic testing project back in the 1950s had given him leukemia. Everyone who seemed to think they knew Martin Everly better than the granddaughter he had raised said he would have wanted Dorel to forget the past and get on with her life without him.

If that were so, why did she feel like her grandfather was following her around when she was awake and haunting her every night in the same dream where he was a young American Naval officer in some battle in China?

She didn’t know much about Martin’s wartime service, but was pretty sure his experiences contributed to his fascination with Asian studies. It had been his obsession, not hers. So why would she dream about that?

The doorbell chimed and Dorel cringed. She tiptoed through the foyer and placed her eye to the viewer to see a small Asian man in orange-yellow robes. How did he get past the doorman? She turned her back and leaned on the door as dread wormed in her stomach. Who was this monk? Some old cronie from Martin’s Buddhist days?

The bell sounded again and her hand was on the knob, opening the door before she could stop herself.

"Miss Everly?" asked the monk. His placid, aged face was wrinkled like the robes he wore and his shaven head was as smooth as the shoulder left uncovered by the saffron folds swathing his compact stature to his white socks and boat shoes.

"Yes?"

"I am Roshi from your grandfather’s former Sangha."

She stared at the meter-long, rectangular black suitcase he held by the handle with both hands. What was in it? she wondered, unusually curious. She swallowed hard.

The monk smiled kindly. "Your grandfather left strict instructions that you were to have this upon his death. May I come in?"

Dorel stood aside and motioned him in. He remained in the foyer as she closed the door, then followed her into the sunny living room.

"Please have a seat, Mr. Roshi." She indicated the sofa and perched herself on the edge of the love seat opposite him. He eased down into a tea rose and lily hued nest of designer pillows and rested the black case on his knees. They sat staring at each other, Dorel willing herself silent and to look at the monk rather than at the black case. It was becoming more difficult by the second to keep her eyes on his. She laced her fingers together in her lap and squeezed.

"Miss Everly, I was a professor of law at Stanford." He reached into his robe and pulled out a folded blue paper. "After I withdrew from public life and entered the Sangha, I acted as an attorney for your grandfather, Martin Everly, in one instance while he was with us. This Eternal Trust document empowered me to hold the item in this case until such time as your grandfather expired. By the terms of the trust, I now release this to you, his granddaughter." He laid the paper on top of the case and held it out to her on his open palms.

Dorel snatched it from his hands. The blue paper slipped into her lap as she set the case on her thighs. Immediately heaviness descended upon her shoulders, flowed down her body, pushing through the floor and into the earth ten stories below. The dizziness in her head and roaring in her ears nearly knocked her off her seat.

"Miss Everly, are you well?" she heard Roshi ask from what seemed far above her.

Her strange symptoms lifted instantly except for the burden of the black case on her lap. Apparently, it was heavier than it looked. "I-I’m fine," she managed.

Roshi nodded, rose fluidly and moved to the door.

"Wait, Mr. Roshi," she called. "What’s in this? When did my grandfather give it to you?"

Roshi opened the door, but turned and stared balefully at her. "I do not know the contents of the case. You will note it is sealed with wax. I have not violated Martin Everly’s confidence. Ever. He entrusted the case to me when he was a novice at the Sangha, our Buddhist community in Sequim."

She set the case and paper on the Oriental rug and stepped quickly to him. "When was that?"

"He came to us after his wife was killed."

"Three years before I was born," she murmured. Her heart thudded and thoughts whirled until an odd stillness settled over her mind. "Thank you for coming, Mr. Roshi."

"Roshi is not my name, but what I am. It means old teacher, a Japanese Zen master," he said with a slight bow and departed, leaving the door open behind him.

Dorel slammed it, scooped the case and paper off the floor, hurried to her bedroom and laid the case on the pane; velvet coverlet. She inspected the green wax sealing each of the two brass snap fasteners on the side of the black leather-covered case no thicker than the span of her hand. The wax looked old and brittle. She picked at the blob on the left fastener and it chipped off easily. In less than ninety seconds both fasteners were clean and she pushed their buttons at the same time. Pop. Pop.

Her heart pounding, Dorel started to lift when the phone rang. She reached for the cordless, one hand still on the closed case lid. "Premselar residence," she answered.

"Dorel, Candace Premselar here. I tried to get you at work, but they said you’d been laid off. The timing couldn’t be worse. Oh, well, did you get my message?"

"Can I call you back?" Dorel asked, impatient to open her prize.

"No, wait. I’m not in London. We’re at Kennedy on our way to Seattle."

Dorel grabbed the phone with both hands. "You’re coming home?"

Candace gave a tinkling laugh. "Yes, it’s the usual thing. Happened in a matter of forty-eight hours. We’ve been reassigned to Renton for the next year. David has to be onsite Friday. I called you the moment I found out. This is such short notice, I know, but think how we feel. Ordinarily you could stay on until you found another place, but our Dutch au pair is with us. The children can’t be without her. And she just loves them. We were so lucky to find her …"

Dorel listened to her life go into an inverted flat spin as Candace enthused about the Dutch teenager who would literally be taking her bed. She glanced at the stacked boxes containing her papers and keepsakes that she’d moved from one house-sitting job to the next during the past three years.

Time to move again. Where would she take her boxes now?

"I’m sorry about this, but I guess you’re used to this, right?" Candace asked, sounding hopeful.

What could she say? "Oh, sure. When does your plane get in? Do you want me to pick you up?"

"No, please, don’t bother. It will be late, so we’ll just grab a cab. The doorman will let us in. Thanks so much for all you’ve done. You stop by next week. I’ve brought you something that will look fabulous with that gorgeous skin and red mane of yours."

Dorel hung up and began mechanically pulling her clothes out of the closet and throwing them on the bed. It wasn’t until she remembered her bonsai sitting on the terrace that she thought of the Buddhist monk and the case he’d brought her. Somehow it didn’t seem so important now that she had to find another place to stay.

Folding her clothes and neatly layering them into the molded luggage set Martin had given her when he’d sent her off to boarding school so long ago, she decided that she’d have to leave the city to find affordable lodging. The one credit card she possessed was maxed out, so she’d have to pay cash. There wasn’t much of that left from her last paycheck and no more coming until she was called back to work. If she were called back. Though once she got a place to stay, she’d apply for unemployment and would have to start looking for work in a glutted job market already overcrowded with laid-off engineers from downsized high techs well as those from Boeing’s previous layoffs.

Dorel’s gaze fell on the black case. Maybe there was money inside. Or something she could sell. Her spirits rose at the prospect and she decided to save opening it as treat when she got settled in at a decent motel.



The following Friday Dorel was first in line as the convention center doors opened. She wrapped both arms around the black case and held it close to her body as the burgeoning ground swell of gun show fans propelled her forward. The masculine tide carried her past rows of dealers’ tables displaying every kind of dangerous-looking weapon for sale.

When she reached the far side of the main hall, Dorel laid the rectangular case on a table oddly empty of wares and devoid of interested spectators. Clenching her hands together in a tight fist on the lid, she blurted to the man behind the table, "You buy old swords?"

He set aside the double-edged sword he was polishing and wiped his hands on the cloth, looking first at the case then at her. A sly smile pushed up one side of his mouth. "Depends on the piece. Think you have something I’d be interested in?"

"I’m not sure." The urge to grab the case and bolt jabbed her, but she fended off the sensation, forcing herself to unsnap the fasteners and lift the lid.

A Japanese samurai sword lay nestled in white silk. A carved half-inch-wide spiral design snaked up the black lacquered wood scabbard. A twisted red silk cord ran through the small rectangular hole in the iron hilt.

"Ahhh," the dealer breathed, reaching for the sword. His hand stopped short of touching it. "You want to sell this?"

Dorel couldn’t take her eyes off the sword. When she’d opened the case the first time, she had hoped for money or something she could turn into cash immediately. There had been no note, no explanation about the sword that was beguiling and dangerous like a black dragon, an image that had superimposed itself in her mind the moment she’d touched the lacquered scabbard. Wondering about the sword, its past and connection with Martin consumed her thoughts and dreams to the point that if she were working, had money coming in or even another house-sitting job, she wouldn’t think of selling her grandfather’s only remaining legacy of value. Dorel met the dealer’s gaze. "Yes, I want to sell it." The sword abruptly prodded her thoughts again. Maybe she shouldn’t give up the last of her meager inheritance.

"Is it yours?" He squinted at her. "Got a bill of sale? An appraisal or something?"

Dorel reached into her purse, then handed him the trust papers.

"Says here the sword is the sole property of an Eternal Trust.’" He read further. "Some description … ah, yeah, here it is. ‘To be conveyed upon the death of Martin Everly to his only grandchild, Dorel Everly. ‘" He glanced at her. "That you?"

"Yes." She handed over her driver’s license.

He returned her license and papers, then took a breath and smiled. "Well, Miss Everly, I’m definitely interested in your sword. While it has familiar characteristics, I haven’t seen a samurai sword quite like this before.

"What do you think it’s worth?" she asked, forcing herself to get down to business.

He picked up the sword and slid it out of the scabbard. "Mind if I take off the handle?"

A shiver of unease shimmied down her back. "Do you have to?" she asked, amazed that his touching her sword bothered her.

"I can’t tell much if I don’t. I can’t tell who made it or how old it is."

"All right. If you must." She leaned protectively across the case, the table’s hard edge pressing into her thighs.

"See this peg here?" He pointed to a round spot of light wood in the straw-colored cord wrapping the handle just below the hilt. "Push out and hit the butt with your palm." The shining blade clanked loose in the handle, the sound rattling Dorel from ankle bones to teeth.

The dealer pulled the handle off the blade and removed the iron hilt. "There are some kind of markings here on the hilt. Hmm, don’t know what they mean. Maybe the tang will have more," he said, studying the tapered six-inch long metal piece on the handle end of the sword.

"Are those markings the same type?" She pointed to the Oriental-looking symbols etched on the flat tang resting in his hand.

"Um," he agreed, squinting in concentration. "Could be Tadatsuna." He looked up. "That’s the armorer, or sword maker. But the temper marks on the blade are different. This piece is old, more than three hundred years at least." He pointed to the gleaming edge. "Been well used, too."

"Does that mean it’s worth less?"

He tried to control a patronizing smile. "No, Miss Everly. I was just making an observation. Your sword’s an unusual piece. Look at the goddess on the butt of the handle here. It’s really unusual, too."

Dorel touched the inch-long golden figurine inset on the handle’s oval bottom. "What is it?"

"Should be a Chinese goddess. But this one …" He ran his hand the length of the ten-inch handle. "I recognize these." He showed her a figure on each side wrapped in the cording. "These are the usual dragon goddesses. They’re positioned so that when a samurai slides the weapon out of the scabbard, he can feel where his hand is without looking."

"Are you interested in buying it?"

The dealer laid down the handle and rubbed his forehead. "Well, I’m really not sure of the value. You see, I don’t know exactly when to date it or who the maker was. The sword could be worth anywhere from twelve to thirty-five hundred. I know a guy, a collector, who could tell us more about your sword. He comes to the arms collectors show every month. If you’ll leave the piece with me, I’ll have him take a look."

"No. I’d prefer not to. I’d like to sell it now."

"Okay." The dealer ran his thumb across his caramel-colored moustache, thinking. "Well, I can give you twelve hundred right now." He sounded almost apologetic.

"You’re low-balling the lady," came a gravel voice from behind Dorel.

She stared at the round-faced bald man now crowding her left elbow. Despite the dense heat of the packed convention hall, he wore a Seattle Mariners blue and gray nylon jacket zipped to his chin. He was only a couple of inches taller than her own five feet eight, but out-weighed her by a good hundred pounds. She edged sideways as he and the dealer locked gazes.

"You know that sword is worth a hell of a lot more than twelve hundred." He turned to Dorel. "I’ll give you two thousand right now on the spot."

Before she could reply the dealer intervened. "Hey, now, wait a minute. She offered me the sword first." He hesitated and looked suspiciously from Dorel to the man. "Okay, lady. You working with this guy?"

Dorel mentally shook herself and moved farther away from the bald man. "Working with him? No! I’ve never seen him before."

"Then sell it to me now," the indignant dealer said. "I can scrape up twenty-five hundred, if you can wait a few minutes."

"May I see that?" another voice inquired from Dorel’s right. She turned uneasily to a wiry man with closely clipped dark hair that waved off his forehead. His butter yellow polo shirt and khaki pants fit his tall frame with casual elegance.

The man’s ordinary pleasant face was a stranger’s, yet there was something familiar about his eyes, a shadowy recollection, as if surfacing from cellular memory.

Her breathing fell shallow. Could I possibly know him? she questioned as peculiar emotions roiled inside. She tried to search her memory, but conflicting compulsions to rush into his arms or run far away from him confused her.

"Hey, Mike," the dealer acknowledged, looking relieved. "Dorel Everly, meet the guy I was telling you about. This is Mike Gabrielli, one of the foremost collectors in the region. If anyone knows about ancient weapons and their value," he said, looking meaningfully at the bald man, "it’s Mike here." Starting to hand the sword to Gabrielli, he asked Dorel, "Okay with you if he takes a look?"

"Listen," the sweating bald man rumbled uncomfortably close to her ear, pressuring her. "They’re the ones running a scam here. Working together to cheat you. Sell me the sword. I’ll give you what it’s worth."

Gabrielli chuckled as he lounged against the table and crossed one tasseled loafer over the other. "You must know something I don’t to be so sure of the piece’s value. Share with us. We’d like to learn."

The rich timbre of his voice resonated within her, producing bewildering flashes of dreamlike images–long supple fingers stroking bare golden skin, a cascade of raven-black hair brushing a muscular chest.

Dorel swallowed and blinked, struggling to disassociate the dream images from this self-assured stranger who seemed so knowledgeable and trustworthy, like someone’s successful doctor-husband. "I-I want Mr. Gabrielli to look at the sword first." She’d never reacted like this to anyone before. Judging from the intense sensations rippling through her, she must have been saving it up for a lifetime. This was getting completely out of hand.

Gabrielli took hold of the sword’s metal tang and ran his other hand lightly up the smooth curving steel. As if he were delicately stroking her own ultra-sensitive skin, Dorel held her breath as his finger traced the odd geometric design etched on the blade back down to the tang. His expression radiated wonder as he examined the engraved characters.

"These look familiar, but at the same time, like nothing I’ve ever encountered before. I don’t believe the sword is from the Tadatsuna armory." His fingertips lingered on the symbols.

As Dorel stared, the etched symbols blurred then sharpened as if in raised block letters, English letters. A deeper and foreign-accented version of Gabrielli’s own voice echoed through her mind:

When I behold thy embodiment

I will awaken to thy hand

Eternally do we battle evil

As if she were one with him, she felt Gabrielli’s breath hang in his chest and his heart recoil. The scene before her eyes ebbed and flowed into a vast grayness. In an instant it rippled and colored like a neon tapestry stretching seamless in all directions. The sum of human experience, past and future, teemed in its threads.

Tracing a braided strand that glowed brighter than the others, she saw Michael Gabrielli, always a warrior and of many races, wielding the sword he now held with her ever at his side. Myriad incarnations flashed before her frame by frame. Suddenly, Dorel’s lungs burned as the scene shifted and smoke swirled around a petite Japanese woman kneeling, weeping over someone lying dead upon the ground. As Dorel struggled to see whom the woman grieved for, the smoke thickened, twisting into a shimmering braid that expanded to a blue-white glow around Gabrielli. Time stood still. Like a pulsing electrical field the brilliance reached toward her, drawing her to his side again.

"What do you think, Mike?" The dealer’s question seeped into her stunned brain.

The vision evaporated, stranding her in a mutually shocked, uncomprehending stare with Gabrielli. She turned numbly to the dealer. "Put it back together."

"But Mike hasn’t told us–"

"I’ve heard more than enough." Dorel glanced at Gabrielli’s now bland expression. What was happening? What had he done? All she could understand was that he gripped her sword as if it were his own and didn’t look as if he would give it up. Ever.

The foreign voice whispered from deep in her consciousness. The sword is his, a part of him. As are you.

She gritted her teeth, wanting to clap her hands over her ears.

Gabrielli handed the sword to the dealer who quickly reassembled it and slid the blade into the scabbard. Reluctantly, he returned the sword to Dorel.

Filled with jumbled emotions, she reclaimed her property and immediately felt relief. As she started to open the case, the strange protective wariness resurfaced, prompting her to watch the men peripherally.

The bald man peeled off hundred dollar bills from a fat fold of green. "Here you go. Nineteen, two thousand like I said." He slapped the bills down on top of the case and reached for the sword in her hands.

Dorel clenched the sword closer to herself. "No!" She stepped back against Gabrielli’s hard chest, whirling away as he grabbed at her.

"Hey, you said you’d sell it to me," the dealer yelled as he hustled around the table.

Flee!

Her throat constricting with panic, Dorel acted on the silent order. She ran, blindly jostling and bumping from body to body through the packed convention hall, and crashed out the exit doors. Dashing to her car in the Union Street parking lot, she sensed she was being hunted.

A cannonball blow slammed between her shoulder blades. Her arms flew out as she fell forward beside her car, the sword clattering to the pavement. Her forehead smacked the door and a roaring ink-black vacuum sucked her in.

She fought darkness and pulled herself to her knees, nearly overwhelmed with nausea and pain. Gingerly touching the raw lump on her forehead, she tried to focus her tunnel-like field of vision on the man standing just a few feet in front of her and recognized Gabrielli.

He gripped her unsheathed sword with both hands, his handsome profile contorted with ferocious intention. Bellowing "Michael Gabrielli," he swung her sword in a mighty arc, but Dorel couldn’t see at what. A piercing, agonized scream shredded the muggy air then quickly faded.

With trance-like slowness, Gabrielli raised her sword toward the sun in an exaggerated salute, then swept it from side to side in a figure eight. Murmuring, he withdrew a long white silk scarf from his pocket and stiffly wiped the red-stained blade. Up. Down. Three times. Holding the scabbard in one hand and the sword in the other, he drew them together on a precise horizontal line with a resounding snap, and then bowed deeply.

"What are you doing?" Dorel yelled as she wobbled to her feet.

Gabrielli turned his fierce gaze on her and strode deliberately toward her. She pushed off the side of her old Jeep Cherokee and moved to claim her sword. "Stop right there!"

His brows drew together, glacier blue eyes shadowed and narrowing. "I just saved you."

"Give me my sword," she demanded then took a short step back.

Still gripping her sword like club, he moved dangerously closer, near enough that the scented heat from his muscular body warmed her skin. He held her gaze, his lips forcing a gaunt smirk. Turning the sheathed sword’s handle toward her and resting it on top of his left arm, he offered the weapon to her.

Dorel grabbed it. The sudden movement jolted pain across her forehead. Confused, she gestured vaguely with the sword. "I don’t understand. You assault me, but now I don’t know whether to scream my head off or just give it to you."

"Listen, that bullet-headed buyer attacked you, I didn’t. He intended to kill you. I stopped him and recovered the sword."

"Just how did you stop him? I heard a terrible scream." She eased back toward her car, praying he wouldn’t continue to advance on her.

He glanced over his shoulder. "We should leave."

She followed his gaze. Three cars down, the bald man slumped over the hood of a Lincoln Town Car, arms squeezed across his chest. A smear of crimson trailed him down the shining white metal as he slid to the pavement and fell on his side. Bile rose in her throat. Panicked, she bolted for the street, the sword clutched to her breast. She looked around wildly, then darted to a taxi waiting at the signal. Jerking open the door, she jumped in beside the startled driver. As the cab leaped forward at the green light, Dorel glanced out the side window, locking gazes with Gabrielli. As he stepped back up on the curb away from her door and the on-coming traffic, the strong urge to stay with him nearly pulled her from the vehicle. But the more powerful demand to escape kept her in the cab until Pioneer Square.

She couldn’t afford to go back to the motel she’d checked out of this morning. The sword’s sale should have brought her more than enough to cover expenses and then some until unemployment kicked in. But that didn’t happen. She still had the sword, apparently worth more than anyone was willing to pay, and which someone had already tried to steal. And they–no, he won’t give up, she worried, deciding she had to get away, disappear for a while.

Where can I go? Dorel wondered as she paid off the cabby. She had to conserve her cash and retrieve her car. Walking to the bus stop, she considered her lack of options. Depression huddled on her shoulders as she slumped to the bench to wait for a bus to nowhere.

A bag lady edged across the bench toward her. "Gimme that," the woman croaked, poking a finger at the sword Dorel rested on her knees.

She stood up, nearly upsetting the woman’s junk-filled shopping cart. Junk! The thought tagged another, producing a destination: Uncle Abie in Auburn! She hadn’t seen him since her granddad’s funeral. He’d offered his help at the time, and now she really needed it. Uncle Abie had a tow truck and could recover her car. Then she’d hide out at his house in back of his junkyard until she decided her next move.

Dorel checked the schedule; the bus for Auburn left in an hour. More people were staring at her sword. She edged away, cursing herself for leaving the case behind. Across the street at an outfitter’s shop she spent forty dollars of her remaining sixty-five on a long duffel bag to protect the sword. She stowed it and waited nervously inside the shop until the bus appeared.

An hour later, Dorel phoned Uncle Abie from an Auburn convenience store. She couldn’t bring herself to mention the sword or Gabrielli, even though she could hardly think of anything else.

"The Cherokee’s starter is acting up, Uncle Abie. Can you get my car from the convention center before it’s impounded?" She didn’t want to try to get it herself, afraid that Gabrielli would be waiting for her. A notion crept from some murky recess in her mind–she should welcome him. The appalling thought was immediately countered the conviction she must stay far away from him. But would could she?

"The old heap finally died on you, huh?" Uncle Abie’s friendly voice promised safety, but his next words mutated her apprehension to terror. "I’ll bring the truck. We can go right away and get it."

"No! I mean, I’m not feeling very well. I’ve got quite a headache. It’s this car thing and Granddad–I really miss him, Uncle Abie . . ." She let her voice trail off, nervously massaging the swollen lump on her forehead, then quickly finger-combed her bangs over it.

"I understand, honey. Don’t worry. You just relax. We’ll pick you up in ten minutes, then I’ll go get your car. Your aunt will be tickled to have you to fuss over while you stay with us."

"Thank you." She hung up, hoping Aunt Verna would be happy. They’d always enjoyed each other, but she’d never lived with her aunt and uncle either. And since they weren’t blood relatives, just old friends of her grandfather’s, tolerance wasn’t guaranteed.

I have to make this work, Dorel thought wearily. She tried to stroke away the worry throbbing between her eyebrows with her fingertips, then conjured a smile for Uncle Abie and Aunt Verna when they pulled up in their new gold-colored Lexus.

Copyright © 2002 Melinda Rucker Haynes



Reviews

Booklist Review

Just after Dorel Everly has lost everything–her beloved grandfather, her engineering job with Boeing, her house-sitting job, and all her savings–a courier shows up with a samurai sword left to her by her grandfather. When she investigates selling it at a weapons show, she meets Michael Gabrielli, a pilot who had been a psychic spy in the military, and is swept with him into a maelstrom of danger and adventure involving ninjas and past-life experiences. Dorel and Michael had been linked with the mysterious sword through several lifetimes in an Eternal Trust as the Defender and Guardian. If they are to avoid a terrible death, Dorel must find a way to defeat the cycle. Originally published as an e-book, Haynes’ tale won the 2001 Eppie Award (e-book) for Best Fantasy/Paranormal Romance.



Publisher’s Weekly (SF/Fantasy/Horror NOTES, June Publications)

When Dorel Everly inherits a mysterious sword from her grandfather, it brings her a love she’s known in a nother life, but his passion has a dangerous edge. Melinda Rucker Haynes’s The Eternal Trust was originally released as an e-book, but with four stars from Romantic Times Magazine, it seems like a good bet for print–which it is: Haynes crafts a highly readable romance complete with a “trained psychic spy,” a magical samurai sword, time travel and a lesson about the “transformational power of love.”



4 Star Rating Romantic Times Magazine

Laid off with no place to live and in need of money, Dorel Everly decides to sell the sword left to her by her grandfather. She has no idea that there is power beholden in the sword and that evil lurks until a strange encounter with Mike Gabrielli, a collector of ancient weapons, sets the wheels in motion.

Betrayed by those closest to her, Dorel has no one to turn to expect Mike–who wants the sword more than anything else in life. As death and destruction follow them, Mike and Dorel work together to learn all they can of the sword. They must find a way to break the eternal trust they are bound to and the power the sword has over them.

The Eternal Trust is a unique paranormal romance of good battling evil. Dorel is truly the heroine of the story, but Michael is definitely worth saving. A truly fascinating story.



Very Highly Recommended, MIDWEST FICTION REVIEWS

Paranormal romance? Reincarnation? Soul mates? Captives of their own destiny? Romantic suspense? An interesting, engrossing read? A real page turner? Oh, yes, all that and more. THE ETERNAL TRUST explores possibilities, raises blood pressure, and gives an absolutely blow your-mind read.

House-sitter and newly out-of-work aeronautical engineer, Dorel Everly receives a legacy from her grandfather. The samurai sword brings the man she’s been waiting for into her life. She learns he, airline pilot Michael Gabrielli, is a former military special ops psychic spy. He uses remote viewing to travel through time to find an ancient samurai sword that bestows vast power upon the owner. Her sword. He wants it and her, but from the looks and actions of the bad guys, his love for her could very well mean the death of both of them. Again.

This is one of those books the reader will either love or hate–and will read it to the end to prove their emotional reaction is right. Okay, I confess, I loved it, loved every word, the plot, the characters, the dog, the cat, and the ending. No, I’m not going to give that away, but it is wonderful.



4 Stars Rating Scribes World Reviews

In the distant past, a samurai lord and his lady made a soul oath to reincarnate together in their next lifetime as the Defender and Guardian, he to battle evil, she to hold his sword in trust until his next incarnation was ready to resume the battle. But the power of the sword proved too tempting a lure, and her lord lived only to wield the sword in battle, lifetime after lifetime. Until now, when the Guardian has been reborn as fiercely independent Dorel Everly, the one woman who has a chance to break the Eternal Trust and set them both free. The current incarnation of the Defender, Michael Gabrielli, former Navy SEAL and Black Ops operative, and expert on all things martial and Japanese, is more than willing to lose himself to the power of the sword. But if he succumbs to the power of the sword, he’ll lose Dorel forever. Is the power of their love sufficient to overcome the centuries-rich power of the sword? Can they defeat the enemies ranged against them without using the sword?

The Eternal Trust is a Mobius strip of a story, twisting and turning and endlessly wrapping around itself as the primary plot, of Dorel and Michael’s romance and attempt to survive long enough to destroy the Trust, weaves in and out of the stories of past Guardians and Defenders. Actions in one life have repercussions in the next, and answers to questions in this life can be found in the past. As a certified hypnotherapist, Melinda Rucker Haynes writes with an insider’s knowledge about reincarnation, out of body experiences, astral projection and mental time travel that I found both compelling and intriguing. She also displays a wealth of detailed information about Japanese culture and military history that greatly enriches the story without ever overwhelming it. And her deft humor, especially regarding the antics of Michael’s dog and cat, had me laughing out loud and reading passages of the book to members of my family.

The primary characters, Dorel and Michael, as well as their last incarnation, Michiko and Fusao, are well-rounded and robust, as is the character of Dorel’s grandfather, seen mainly in flashbacks and journal entries . . . the book remains an overall engrossing and enjoyable read.



Barnes & Noble Books, Paranormal Romance Reviews

In Seattle, Boeing engineer Dorel Everly is laid off just two days after her beloved grandfather’s funeral. Still in shock from the double blows, a monk visits Dorel at her home to give her an enclosed case that her grandfather entrusted to him. Dorel opens the case to see it contains a samurai sword.

Desperate for money, Dorel leans towards selling the sword even if it is her grandfather’s legacy. However, pilot Mike Gabrielli traces the sword to Dorel. He wants the sword, but also desires Dorel in his life. She reciprocates his feelings, but others are now aware of where the sword is. These malevolent beings will murder to possess this particular sword that contains special powers. Only if they trust in the love that has a long history well before the incarnation of Mike and Dorel and learn about THE ETERNAL TRUST that bound the sword to them might Mike and Dorel stand a chance to survive.

THE ETERNAL TRUST is a cogent paranormal romance that centers on the battle between good and evil. Though the story line takes some adjustment to the flashbacks and journal entries, readers will find that even using that typically passive technique, the plot is action-packed yet the characters not lost in the focus. Mike is a wonderful hunk who will risk his life for his beloved while the heroine struggles to find her place in the latest war. Melinda Rucker Haynes provides a wonderful journey into a strange world that seems so real due to the author’s ability to create quite a tale.



Romance Reviews Today

Over fifty-five years ago in war-torn China, an ancient Samurai sword was pried from the dying hands of Baron Fusao Tsuji by his baroness and given to young US Navy Lieutenant Martin Everly. In the brief moments before joining her husband on a different plane of existence, she told Everly the sword was for his granddaughter, who would be the new guardian and who would have a chance to break the cycle and stop the killing.

Doral Everly’s life definitely hits a bad patch. Only two days after her beloved grandfather’s funeral, she loses her job as a Boeing engineer, and the family for whom she’s house-sitting comes home early. She’s out of a job, out of a place to live, and will soon be out of money. Her grandfather’s Leukemia drained their combined assets. The only bright spot is a visit from a Buddhist monk who brings the antique sword entrusted to him by her grandfather, a last legacy from Martin Everly, and one she hopes to sell for a good price at an arms collectors show.

Mike Gabrielli has many talents. He’s a commercial 747 pilot, a collector of oriental antiquities, an expert on antique arms, and an ex psychic spy for the military–Mike can send his astral body out into time and space. It’s as though he’s been waiting his whole life for something, and the call finally draws him toward the convention center and the booth of his friend, arms dealer Jonathan Spencer.

And so the Guardian and the Protector meet in this life as their souls have met so many lives before. The sword has brought them together and promises them, “I will awaken to thy hand. Eternally shall we battle evil.” While Mike easily accepts the sword and its power, Doral is skeptical and not a little afraid, and rightly so. Others want the sword for themselves–at any price. And just perhaps the power of the sword is not all for good. Remember what they say about power and corruption?

The foundation premise of THE ETERNAL TRUST is that souls do not die, but move onto other levels of existence until they are born again. And sometimes communication can exist between levels, and memories can be recovered from past lives. Given that reality, the plot moves swiftly into edge of the seat suspense with betrayals, fights to the death, uncanny voices and a passion left over from centuries past.

The story has strong internal and external conflict, and it’s written for maximum effect. Often, when you think you have it all figured out, you find a surprise around the corner. Doral makes a strong modern heroine, but Mike is much more complex. Between his psychic abilities and the influence of the sword, and his mixed feeling for Doral, his next action is hard to predict.

For a journey into the paranormal with thrills, chills and a clear demonstration of the importance and power of love, give THE ETERNAL TRUST a try.



Author Recommendations:


“Melinda Haynes is an incredible talent! The Eternal Trust is sure to entertain the most discriminating reader.”

Katherine Sutcliffe, USA Today Best-selling author


“The Eternal Trust showcases Melinda Rucker Haynes’s lively style.”

Stella Cameron, New York Times Best-selling author


“… dark and delicious–Melinda Rucker Haynes skillfully weaves suspense, adventure and mystery into every page.”

Pam Binder, New York Times Best-selling author