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What verified Amazon readers
say about The Fire Opal

Riveting! Thought provoking, mystical, 
and hauntingly moving. Ms. Flynn creates a steamy
sensual tale of faith, forgiveness, and love. . . Rendezvous
Brilliant . . . a first-rate romance blended 
inside a frightening plot, proving
once again that no one makes the para-world seem
more like a perfectly normal occurrence than
the fantastic Flynn. . . . Harriet Klausner
Super supernatural, a gripping story to
sweep you away. It wasn't my usual
thing, but it made no difference.
Connie kept me hooked.
Fire Opal takes you into the world of Cajuns
living in the LA. swamps where "good" and "evil" battle, with love being the key to the war. . . .
Finding abook I can't put down is a real treat.
Fire Opal is just this type of book
. . . Amazon Reader
. . . masterfully weaves in a steamy romance that
enhances the theme without overpowering it
. . . . Joe Gigante, Amazon Reader

AN ANCIENT BAYOU DEMON KILLED HER GRANDMOTHER
AND MOTHER. NOW SHE'S THE LAST GUARDIAN OF THE FIRE OPAL

Liz Deveraux fled her voodoo heritage as a teenager and has returned home for her mother's funeral. She has reinvented herself as a successful stockbroker and wants no part of her old life The last person she expects to see at the funeral is her high school sweetheart who remembers the girl she's tried so hard to leave behind.

Zach Fortier is more than ticked to learn that Liz let him believe she was dead all these years. He is there to investigate the suspicious drowning of his brother and is knocked off guard by the resurgence of old feelings. This new Liz is a woman who cared so little she didn't bother to let him know she was alive. How could any man forgive that?

Liz's father, who insists a demon entity killed her mother and stole the Fire Opal, boats into the deep swamp intent on finding the enemy and winning back the legendary stone. Liz takes chase to stop him and, overriding her protests, Zach insist on going with her, mixed feelings of resentment and joy still waging a battle inside him. But the bigger battle is still ahead and neither knows that their lost love is the key to their success. Only by winning their inner wars can they hope for victory in their battle with this ancient evil that has plagued Liz's family for centuries.

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Canoe

Chapter
One      






"Come back from the dead . . ."

"Best-kept secret I've ever . . ."

"Her folks never said . . ."

They huddled together, casting furtive glances at the slender woman wearing funeral black and whispered among themselves from behind their hands. A misting rain shrouded the gathering, and wind blew through the moss-hung cypress and oak with an eerie whine that made a somber backdrop for the rites the priest performed.

Liz Deveraux gathered the hood of her lightweight raincoat around her face, as much to block out their voices as to protect herself from the cold and the rain. The townspeople were trying to be kind, she told herself. They were trying not to show their qualms about the woman they were putting to rest, about the daughter who'd somehow climbed out of a grave to attend the funeral, but their hushed murmurs and thinly veiled wariness made her feel exposed.

She'd run from this so long ago, from the sly looks and whispers. From that odd mixture of love, respect, and fear that Port Chatre residents had always shown Ellie Deveraux, and by proxy, her only daughter.

But Liz had loved the way a child loves. And she'd always believed her mother would live forever, providing time to resolve their differences. Wrong, oh so wrong, as the rain-slick marble cover leaning against the vault attested.

The priest finished the rites. Attendants from the mortuary took up the sides of the cover, sliding it into place with a baleful clunk. The finality of the sound sent a shudder through Liz, but her eyes still remained as dry as they'd been throughout the funeral.

"Come, Izzy. The time is now to go to the wake." Liz turned to her father. Even at this sorrowful time, she felt an urge to correct his fractured syntax, and with it came a pang of guilt. Her parents were who they were, and if she'd learned to accept that, she wouldn't now be feeling the weight of the unresolved issues her mother had taken with her to her crypt.

"Weep, mon fille, you must weep. Keep tears inside, they poison your soul."

"In my own time," she replied softly. She wanted so much to cry. Her throat and chest ached, but somehow the tears wouldn't flow.

He acknowledged her answer with a nod of his bowed head, and returned to staring at the freshly sealed vault. Unlike most of the other men, he wore no suit. Raindrops had collected on the felt bill of his hunting cap and on the nappy surface of his checked flannel jacket, making him look exactly like the swamper he was.

Liz moved to the impressive crypt that she had ordered, glad she could give at least this much. The marble was fresh and smooth, and the indentations of the inscription were already filling with rain. She could feel the rough edges left by the chisel as she traced the letters of her mother's name, hoping the act would somehow fill the empty space inside her. But it didn't.

When she touched the epitaph, she stilled her finger and looked at her grandmother's adjacent vault. It bore the very same words.

Guardian of the Fire Opal
At Last She Rest

"This makes it sound like a blessing that Mama died," she said sadly, running the flat of her hand across the markings.

"A blessing, no. But now she finally be free of Ankouer and the burden of caring for the opal. That, mon fille, is a blessing for true."

"But . . . it's so disturbing. Please have it changed, Papa."

He fixed her with a bloodshot stare. "Non. Every guardian have this on her vault. And every defender, if there be one, carve it there as an act of love."

"It's total superstition."

"Superstition. Yeah. I think that, too. Once."

He ran his hand across his strong, stubbled jaw, and Liz wondered how long it had been since he'd shaved. He wasn't prone to be slovenly or to talk about things such as Ankouer and the purpose of the opal. It was her mother who had followed the mystic ways that awestruck the townspeople and had caused Liz such embarrassment.

"Then I seen him with my own eyes." He tapped the marble as he spoke. With each word, the taps grew harder and faster, until they sounded like angry cries. "Giantlike and black, swirling with evil. And he suck my Ellie's life breath. I can do nothing, I, to stop him, though I try so very hard."

"See what I mean, Papa?" She leaned over to stop his tapping hand, then reached up to caress his face. He was grief crazed, that was it. His sorrow had warped his judgment.

"A stroke killed Mama, just like Grandmere, but you're blaming yourself. That's what superstition does. Please don't do this to yourself."

"No one else to blame."

He covered her hand with his other one and smiled sadly. It was the smile she remembered from childhood, the one that said she was loved.

"We talk no more of this. Richard has been so kind to offer his home for your maman's wake. We not keep them waiting, no?"

"No, of course not," she replied, giving a wan grin to hide her dread.

Holding his hand, she turned to leave the cemetery, but a sudden tug stopped her. She lifted her eyes to meet her father's, questioning.

"Tomorrow I give you the opal."

She shook her head. "I want you to have it."

"I cannot. The opal is now yours to guard. There be no one else to carry on."

"To guard . . . ?" she repeated dully, involuntarily glancing back at the twin vaults with their twin inscriptions that now held Mama and Grandmere forever.

"Oui. Only you can keep the stone from le fantome noir. You be the last guardian There be no one else." Her legacy, she thought bitterly. Instead of bone china or jewelry like everyone else, she was inheriting an icon of superstition. She started to protest again, then realized no argument would keep her father from giving her that stone.

"I am sorry, Izzy," he said, tightening his grip on her hand, and gazing at her with lost, haunted eyes. "For true I am."

* * *

"Glad, you responded to my fax in person, son. I'm no expert coroner" — Doc Allain stated this humbly, but his chest puffed up with pride — "just a small-town doctor doing my best, and I didn't want to put my suspicions in writing. Pretty sure you'll understand why when you see what I got."

"Looking forward to it," replied Zach Fortier, thinking that the guy was kind of an amazement. Had to be nearly ninety, and the last time he'd seen the man, he'd been tottering on a cane. Now here he was looking a healthy sixty, if that.

"Used to get a lot of notifications," Zach went on to tell the doctor, "but the last year they kind of petered out. Yours is the first I've seen in months."

"None of 'em panned out I suppose."

"Nope. Maybe this time. A man can always hope."

"Sure can. Probably should." Allain tilted his head. "But what makes you doubt the official findings?"

Zach hesitated. He wasn't crazy about examining his reasons too close. They were hazy, sort of, and came more from the gut than the brain. But Allain deserved some answer, he supposed.

"Jed knew the swamp as well as any man, and he swam like a gator. It doesn't make sense he'd drown out there. Plus that, the escaped con he was chasing had drug ring connections. Throwing a body in the swamp's a good way to cover up the real cause of death."

He'd explained enough, Zach thought, and he was impatient to see the evidence the doc had faxed about. "So what have you got?"

"Nothing conclusive, you understand."

"You never know until you see the evidence."

"Right, but let me give it to you in a nutshell. I compared the results of Ellie Deveraux's examination with the stuff you put on the wire about your brother, and—" The man's short cough almost seemed to be for effect. "Well, there's reason to believe Frank killed his wife."

"What?" Zach sputtered. "What did you find?"

"Just this." He handed Zach a medical file. "Couldn't do an autopsy without Frank throwing a fit. But I have plenty."

The thick folder was old, the edges bent, and it contained the records of every member of the Deveraux family. Unusual these days to see a family file, but Port Chatre was still a small, old-fashioned town. Some of the papers looked the worse for wear, contrasting with the new top sheet containing the results of the doctor's examination.

Zach read the doctor's report carefully. Ellie Deveraux had died in her sleep. Frank found her the next morning.

Just the idea of waking up to discover your wife lying dead beside you gave Zach the creeps. Just as creepy was the act of going through the family folder of the first girl he'd ever loved.

Were the results of Izzy's examinations in here? Did they mention her vitality? Her love of life? Those remarkably flecked amber eyes that always reminded him of the stone called cat's eye? Did those pages tell all these things about a young woman whose life was wiped out so early?

An unwelcome thickness in his throat made him turn his attention back to the report. Except for the lividity about the lips, the same unexplained blue cast Jed's desecrated body had also borne, nothing looked unusual about Ellie's death. A stroke, Doc Allain had written, causing paralysis of the lungs, resulting in anoxia and eventual asphyxiation. A blood test revealed no oxygen in the bloodstream. There was tissue decay of the fingers and toes.

Hell, Zach wasn't a coroner. But he didn't have to be to see this was another wild goose chase. This sweet old guy was one of those backwoods physicians with an honorary coroner's title who fancied himself a forensic expert.

He leafed through the folder, telling himself he wasn't really looking for something about Izzy, and when he came across a sheet on her, he quickly passed it by. Near the back he found a report on Catherine Deveraux, Ellie's mother. She, too, had died of a stroke. Same lividity about the lips, and decay of the digits.

"Those the same kind of marks found on your brother?" Allain asked.

"The bluish lips, yes," Zach said. "There wasn't enough left . . ."

"Petechiae under the eyelids?"

"Yeah." At least on what was left of the lids.

"You identify the body yourself?"

Zach reached for a cigarette. One thing about small Louisiana towns, no one objected to smokers, not even in a doctor's office. "Yeah," he said after lighting up. "I did."

"Must've been rough seeing him chewed up that way."

"Wasn't the easiest." He looked back down at Catherine's sheet. "Looks like strokes run in the family."

"Or maybe murders. Frank brought Catherine in, too."

"You examine Catherine yourself?"

"Yes, but those days I didn't know what I know now."

Bull's-eye. Yep, give a man a little knowledge. One thing was clear, Allain sure did want to prove he'd found a killer.

But accusing Frank Deveraux? Zach remembered the man's dark laughing eyes, the way his big, rough hands could so gently touch a kid's shoulder.

Investigators didn't put much stock in coincidence, and he'd given years to the business, but connecting these deaths was a stretch he couldn't quite make.

True, Ellie's lips had shown a blue cast; so had Catherine's—and Jed's. Not uncommon in asphyxiation, but this particular marker was unusual because color on the lips usually faded rapidly as uncirculated blood pooled in the body. Another medical anomaly that would suddenly start popping up again and again? Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, despite the similarities to the findings on Jed's body, there was nothing in these reports that a stroke couldn't explain away.

"Frank's gone half bonkers," Allain went on, "saying Ellie died of la maladie malefique. Shows a guilty conscience, you ask me." The man chuckled derisively. "Evil illness, indeed. These swamp Cajuns and their hocus-pocus. Have to admit, though, it's one I haven't heard in a while. Hell of it is, some take him seriously enough they'd never think murder."

"Sure, Doc," Zach replied absently as he spied Izzy's name at the top of a sheet. This time he paused to look. She'd been in to see Doc about a sore throat. Strep, the doctor had diagnosed, prescribing an antibiotic. Odd, considering her mother's reputation as a natural healer, but maybe the problem had gone on too long.

"Don't get many murders around here. Last one happened in eighty-nine. Old Pete Bourg went off half-cocked in Tricou's café, shot Louis Martin clean through the chest. Boy, what a mess. Pete carried Louis in, bleating like a goat that Ankouer made him do it, blood spurting all over the place, like to never clean it . . ."

Zach hardly heard. His mind drifted to his teenage years. He and Izzy paddling through the swamps, sometimes alone, but more often than not with Jed tagging along. Lots of mischief, lots of laughs. Now he was the only one left.

How could that be? Sagging belly or not, he wasn't even forty. Too young to have lost two people so close to him who were even younger.

"Town's not the same since your folks left," Allain remarked. "Cannery's gone, tourists all over the place. I miss the old days."

Zach abandoned his trip down memory lane, and looked up.

"Ma couldn't run the cannery herself with Pa gone," he replied. "Too bad the buyers couldn't make a go of it. Times change, I suppose."

"Sure do." The doctor chuckled again, for no apparent reason. Then out of the blue he asked, "Think we should demand an autopsy? Get a court order, need be?"

Zach stared at the doctor blankly, reflecting on the possibility that the man's brain hadn't fared as well as his body. "That would just add to Frank's grief, and he's already had enough. Besides, your toxicology came up negative."

"But the presence of petechiae . . ."

"Look, Doc, I'm no coroner, but wouldn't a bit of hemorrhaging be normal from a stroke?"

"Not necessarily in the eyes and nose. And the same type were found in your brother's body."

Zach swallowed an impatient sound and dropped his gaze back to the notes on Izzy. "I don't want to rain on your parade, partner, but there's only a slim connection. Not enough to warrant an autopsy. Thanks for contacting me, but—"

"The wake's being held right now over at Cormier's house. How 'bout just talking to Frank? See if I'm not right about his bizarre behavior. You could speak with the girl, too."

Zach's head snapped up so hard the bones in his neck cracked. "Who?"

"Frank and Ellie's girl, Lizette I think. Yeah, Lizette. In her mid-thirties now, but you must remember her. You used to sniff around her enough."

"Izzy?" Zach choked out. "No. Izzy's dead."

"Seems not. Drove in last night pretty as you please to attend her mama's funeral. Care to come see for yourself?"

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