Publisher: Sillhouette Nocturne
Pub. Date: January 2007
Writing this story was both exciting and difficult at times. DEVOTION CALLS brings back some earlier secondary characters Sara Martinez (DANGER CALLS, June 2005) and Ricardo Fernandez (TEMPTATION CALLS, Oct 2005).
Sara’s mom is terminally ill and wanting to try all avenues to make her better, Sara takes her to Ricardo, whom she believes to be a santero. Ricardo had helped her mother earlier, but he knows that he is reaching the limits of what he can do. This creates tension between them since Sara has always doubted his assertions as to what he is and what he can do.
Add to this mix a different creature — a chupacabra — or goat sucker. The chupacabra is similar to a vampire, sucking the blood of animals in order to survive. I’ve given the chupacabra mythology a twist, though, which soon has the creature going after Ricardo.
The story is action packed, but also, humbling and emotionally charged. The emotional part was at times difficult for me because my mom died of cancer when I was 22. We had tried all kinds of treatments, but no alternative ones. I sometimes still wonder what might have happened if we had also elected to try less traditional treatments.
I hope you will enjoy this story on many levels, from the suspense to the intense relationship that Ricardo and Sara will come to share to what I hope you will find to be an uplifting resolution of the story involving Sara’s mom.
Spanish Harlem, New York City
The saints’ eyes followed him as he worked, scolding him for using them for his lie. Mocking him for denying the truth about what he was.
Ricardo Fernandez paused and laid his hands on the altar that embodied the fraud that was his life. He stared down the condemning gazes from the statues of the saints, used to such censure from those who refused to believe in his powers. Those whose fears forced him to hide behind the guise of a santero.
Picking up his hands, he turned them palm side up and as he had more than once in his thirty years of life, considered why he had been chosen to have this burden. Why with these hands that looked just like the hands of any other man, he possessed the power to both give life or take it away.
If he was a lesser man, he might have fallen into the trap of considering himself almost god-like. He might have possibly opted to sell his abilities to those willing to pay the highest price to be saved. He could have even made him a fine assassin, able to kill without leaving behind a trace.
He had done none of those things, he considered, as he once again examined his hands, and after, resumed his task.
With a gentle touch, he removed the offerings he had placed on the altar the day before. The fine cigar, now just a half-burnt stub and ashes. The shot glass of fragrant rum which had nearly evaporated from the heat of the radiator just a few feet away. With a quick check of the vase with the sunflowers he had placed beside one virgencita, he shifted to the last set of offerings.
A small pile of coins lay at the foot of one saint’s statue. He gathered up the money in his hand and thanked the deity. While he might not be a true believer, his costumers held to this faith. He wouldn’t besmirch their tenets. He hoped the prayer respectful enough to honor this and the other deities that allowed him to use the powers with which he had been born.
Ricardo didn’t like living a lie, but posing as a santero was the one way that had proved helpful so that he might use his healing gifts. He suspected that many of the people who sought him out might not have come to him if they realized his abilities were earthly. They preferred to think they came from rituals beseeching their gods.
Of course, if some god hadn’t decided to give him this boon, who had? Ricardo refused to consider the alternative since he had sworn to never use the dark side of his gift. Not even when someone asked for it, as had happened on more than one occasion.
As had happened just the other day with Evita Martinez.
He had been seeing Evita for just over a year now, ever since the doctors at one of New York City’s more prestigious hospitals had told her that there was nothing else they could do for her. That she should just go home and enjoy what was left of her life.
But Evita hadn’t wanted to die just yet. Having heard about his unique abilities from some of the other ladies in the neighborhood, she had come to him for help. She and her daughter, Sara.
Sara, he thought with a sigh, recalling the way that she had stood before him nearly a year earlier, skewering him with her gaze as he talked to her and her mother about what he could and could not do.
He knew that Sara hadn’t believed him. Worse, that she considered him a charlatan. Her bright hazel eyes had skewered him with her disbelief, much like those of the saints.
When he had found out that she was a nurse and had asked for payment of a most unusual kind — blood — she had likely also considered him to be certifiable. He had thought for a moment that she might run and take her mother with her, but then despair had crept into her eyes.
Sara loved her mother and at that moment, she had been desperate enough to do anything to help her — even if it meant bringing bags of blood to a man she considered less than dirt. Ricardo hated relying on that despair. He hated the lying, but he did what he had to so he could help people.
When Sara brought a blood bag later today, he would have to consider how to tell the prickly nurse that her mother’s cancer was growing faster than he could contain it. That her mother had asked him to help her pass peacefully when the time came rather than suffer with the pain.
Healing and killing. His gift and his curse, he thought.
A tap came against the glass of his door. He turned from the altar and stared toward the front of his store.
Sara Martinez stood there, chin tucked into the thick collar of the charcoal grey down jacket she wore against the lingering chill of winter. A crazy gust of March wind sent the silk of her shoulder length brown hair swirling around her face. With a gloved hand, she combed her hair back and shifted from foot to foot, impatient and intractable as always about these visits.
The early morning sun played across her arguably pretty face. Heart-shaped with a hint of a cleft in her chin. Hazel-colored eyes that expressed so much with just a look. In his case, generally disgust. But he had seen how those eyes could warm to a molten caramel when they gazed upon someone she loved.
Last but not least, full lips. Or at least, he assumed they might be full. It was tough to tell from the grim smile she usually wore around him. Like she did right now as she waited at his door.
With a deep breath to prepare himself for what he would soon tell her, Ricardo walked toward her.
Cover art:Copyright © 2007 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
From the book: DEVOTION CALLS
By: Caridad Pineiro
Imprint and Series: Silhouette Nocturne
Publication Date: January 2007
Copyright © 2007
By: Caridad Piñeiro Scordato
The edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
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