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«Don’t Look Back», Jayne Krentz

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as Amanda Quick

For Catherine Johns:

What a joy is friendship.

And to Riley and Ferd-both gone

but not forgotten-and all of the

other creatures, large and small, who add an extra dimension to our

lives while they are with us.

 

Acknowledgments

My most sincere thanks to Catherine Johns, Curator, Romano-British Collections at The British Museum, for the insights and background on Roman Britain and ancient jewelry. Her personal, professional guidance, together with the wealth of information provided in her many publications, including The jewellery of Roman Britain, Celtic and Classical Traditions, were invaluable. I am even more grateful for the friendship that we forged during the time it took me to write this book.

I also want to thank her for introducing me to Mr. Samuel Lysons, one of the founders of archaeology in Britain. The standards he set in his excavations and the beautifully illustrated reports he created in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries are still admired today by professionals in the field.

I am, of course, solely responsible for any errors.

And, as always, my thanks to Frank, whose support and understanding are matched only by his uncanny ability to rescue me from computer disasters and rolling blackouts. I love you, sweetheart.

Prologue

The Keeper set aside the candle and opened the old, leather-bound volume. He turned the aged pages carefully until he found the passage he sought.

 

… It is said they meet in secret in the dead of night to conduct their strange ceremonies. There are rumors that the initiates worship the snake-haired Gorgon. Others claim that they gather in obedience to their master, who commands Medusa’s power to turn men to stone.

The master’s talent is said to be a strange and terrible sort of magic. After inducing a deep trance in his victims, he issues orders to them. When he releases them from their thrall, they execute those commands without question.

The great mystery is that those upon whom the art is practiced have no memory of the instructions they were given while they were entranced.

It is believed that the master’s power is greatly enhanced by the forces of the strange gem he wears.

The stone is carved with the fearsome image of Medusa. A wand is cut into the gem below the creature’s severed neck. This device is said to be a representation of the magical rod used by the cult’s master to effect a trance.

The carved gem is similar to an onyx, save that its alternating bands of colors are rare and exceedingly strange shades of blue, instead of black and white. The dark outer layer is so deep in hue as to be almost black. It frames the image of Medusa, which is cut into the light-colored layer of the stone. This second layer is a shade of blue reminiscent of fine, pale sapphires.

The gold bracelet in which the stone is set is worked with many small piercings to create a pattern of entwined snakes.

The master is greatly dreaded in these parts. His identity is always concealed by a hooded cloak during the cult’s ceremonies. None knows his name, but the gem carved with the Gorgon’s head and the wand is his emblem and seal. It is also believed to be the source of his power.

I am told that the stone is known as the Blue Medusa.

Chapter One

Tobias watched Lavinia walk up the steps of Number 7 Claremont Lane and knew at once that something was very wrong. Beneath the deep brim of her stylish bonnet, her face, always a source of intense fascination for him, showed signs of an odd, brooding tension.

In his admittedly limited experience, Lavinia rarely brooded over a problem or a setback. She was more inclined to take immediate action. Much too inclined to do so, in his considered opinion. Reckless and rash were words that came to mind.

He watched her from the window of the cozy little parlor, every muscle in his body tightening with a battle-ready tension. He had no patience with premonitions and other such metaphysical nonsense, but he trusted his own hunches, especially when it came to matters concerning his new partner and lover. Lavinia looked nothing short of shaken. He knew better than most that it took a great deal to rattle her composure.

“Mrs. Lake is home,” he said, glancing at the housekeeper over his shoulder.


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