Highland Shifter Page 1

Chapter One

Current Day, Los Angeles

Energy buzzed down Helen’s spine until she shivered with the electrical current her gift created. The information she sought was close enough to taste, all she needed to do was touch it and she’d be one step closer to finding the missing boy.

Helen Adams shifted onto the balls of her feet, reached well beyond her five-foot six frame, and tipped the old leather bound text into her hands. As the book slid from its comfortable position on the top shelf in Mrs. Dawson’s library, dust plumed off the sill in a cloud. The zap she’d been feeling for the last half hour eased into a nice, steady hum. The blanket of warmth that only came when she’d found what she sought brought a rare smile to her face.

“There you are,” she whispered to the ancient book as if it were alive.

“Did you find what you’re looking for?” Mrs. Dawson limped into the room, leaning heavily on the cane. Nearing her eighty-fourth birthday, Mrs. Dawson’s battered, frail body appeared as if it wanted nothing more than to lie down and rest forever.

“I think so.” Helen gently blew the layer of dust off the book and peered close to determine the title. Embossed into the leather was an old Celtic design. The scent of a fresh meadow after a cleansing rain settled over her. Helen closed her eyes and grasped the text hard. She heard the hooves of horses, smelled the sweet scent of horseflesh. None of this experience came from the room where she stood, but from the book she held in her hands.

As the scents dissipated, Helen opened her eyes and gazed at the book in wonder. How could a book this old hold any relevance on a missing child’s case in the twenty-first century?

“Do you have any idea where this originally came from?” Helen asked as she moved to the table and turned on a light to view the pages inside the book.

“My late husband collected boxes of books like that when he was alive. As you can judge by the dust, they’ve not been touched since his death.” Mrs. Dawson eased herself into a chair, cringing as she sat. Helen knew her friend’s arthritis would be acting up with the sour weather pounding the window outside. Helen also knew Mrs. Dawson wouldn’t accept anything more than a sympathetic smile if Helen were to ask if she could help her sit or stand.

“Well, let’s see what you have there.”

Judging by the cover, Helen expected the text to be in either Celtic or Italian. She was wrong.

The title of Folklore, writing in a beautiful script font, splashed the front page of the book.

The book was written in English.

Helen glanced at the opening credits to see the publication date.

“This is over two hundred years old,” Helen said, confused.

“What does it have to do with that boy?” Mrs. Dawson asked.

“I’ve no idea.”

Mrs. Dawson was the only person who knew the extent of Helen’s gift. Well, the only person Helen had told who hadn’t laughed at her and passed her off as crazy.

Her work at a local antique shop had led her down this path to Mrs. Dawson’s library in search of a missing teenage boy, Simon McAllister. What the boy and the book in her hands had in common, Helen hadn’t a clue.

Helen gently turned the pages and skimmed the text. From what she could tell, several different storytellers wrote the content. Illustrations dotted the pages with small captions explaining the pictures.

There were illustrations of Celtic symbols, Scottish kilts, warriors with broadswords, and women wearing long, flowing dresses.

What any of it had to do with Simon McAllister disappearing off the face of the earth without a trace was a mystery to Helen.

Releasing a long-suffering sigh, she flattened her hand on the table and twisted away in frustration. “This is useless.”

Mrs. Dawson cocked her head to the side in a motion of concern. One of the shutters on the outside of the house ripped free of its lock and swung back, hitting the side of the old house with an angry bang.

Helen and Mrs. Dawson jumped at the noise and swiveled toward it.

Cold air blew into the room, and the drapes around the window flapped in protest from the outside elements.

An eerie screech whistled through the crack in the window, and the book to Helen’s side started fluttering through pages like a deck of cards being shuffled in Vegas. The pages moved in a rapid pace, but the current of air in the room barely brushed her skin.

Unable to pull her gaze away, Helen watched as the pages of the book came to a sudden stop.

The air on her back blew colder, harder, but the pages no longer rustled.

Her chocolate brown hair started to come loose from the tight bun on her head, but she ignored the tendrils falling in her face. Instead, Helen inched closer.

Two illustrations covered the pages. On the left was a Scottish warrior, broad shouldered and dressed in his plaid, as would any proud Scot of centuries past. In the corner of the illustration flew a hawk or maybe it was a falcon. Helen couldn’t be sure.

The warrior’s hand extended toward the opposite page, his face solemn with an expression of absolute desperation.

Helen let her eyes travel to the right page and time suddenly stood still.

“My God,” Mrs. Dawson exclaimed.

My God indeed.

“That’s you.”

Helen peered closer, stared at the image, which certainly looked like her. The woman in the picture wore her hair long, past her waist. She wore a floor length dress with long, flowing sleeves.

Yes, it could have been a distant relative of Helen’s. That alone gave her a sense of familiarity she had never experienced any other time in her life. Abandoned at a young age, Helen never knew her parents or any other relative.

Helen took in the features of the woman’s face and gasped when her gaze landed on the pendant around the woman’s neck.

Reaching a hand to her own neck, she pulled out an identical replica of the necklace in the picture from under her turtleneck sweater.

The breeze from the window stopped and the room started to warm.

“This lady must be one of your relatives,” Mrs. Dawson said.

Helen nodded but couldn’t voice any words. The necklace wasn’t an heirloom. What did the picture mean? Who was the man on the opposite page, and what did it have to do with the missing boy she felt a need to find?

She had more questions than answers. Glancing at her watch, Helen realized how late it was. “I should leave so you can rest. Do you mind if I hold onto this book for a while?”

Mrs. Dawson patted her hand. “Of course not, dear. It appears to belong to you anyway.”

Helen reached for the book, but Mrs. Dawson stopped her hand midway. Frail, wrinkled fingers touched the backside of Helen’s hand and fiddled with the watch surrounding her wrist. Mrs. Dawson tapped the watch then lowered her same finger to the picture of the woman in the book.

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