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Authors: Leila Brown

The Diamond Heartstone

The Diamond Heartstone by Leila Brown

The Diamond Heartstone

By

Leila Brown

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The Diamond Heartstone by Leila Brown

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are

products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to

be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales,

organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

The Diamond Heartstone

Copyright© 2007 Leila Brown

ISBN: 978-1-60088-193-0

Cover Artist: Emma Petersen

Editor: Devin Govaere

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced

electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of

brief quotations embodied in reviews.

Cobblestone Press, LLC

www.cobblestone-press.com

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The Diamond Heartstone by Leila Brown

Dedication

There are so many wonderful people who helped me get to where I

am today. First and foremost, my husband. Thank you for believing in me,

pushing me, dragging me, reading for me and editing for me. I can never

express my thanks for all the things you've done for me.

To my beta readers Nakia, Nicole, and Chaya. You were right, the

book is good. Thanks for reading for me.

To Grandma, thanks for always telling me I could do anything.

And finally to my children. Thanks, Andre, for keeping me on my

toes, physically and mentally. And to Mason and Leila, you are my

constant inspiration.

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The Diamond Heartstone by Leila Brown

Prologue

Belusian Prime, Theta Galaxy

‚You have the credits?‛ The woman in the dark hood reached out to

him with a wrinkled hand from the dark shadows of the abandoned

transport room.

Barrick held out the small black card charged with one hundred

thousand credits. An extreme amount. But he was willing to pay any

amount for her services. Her knobby fingers snagged the card without

ruffling the fur lining his hand. Faster and more agile than she looked.

She put the card into a reader. Three beeps later and he could almost

see the grizzly white of her smile. It seemed jagged. Like an animal who

knew how to render flesh from bone.

‚Ahh. We are agreed. I need just one more thing from you.‛ The

woman reached out to him again. This time she bypassed his hand and

ground her palm against the fur on his chest. Her furless skin felt warm

and smooth.

She flexed her fingers and white-hot blinding pain pulsed through

him. Her fingers seemed to slip through his skin. They closed around his

heart and squeezed the organ. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. Was

she trying to kill him? Had he been duped? Unfortunately, this part of the

ship was barely used since each of the crew now had personal wrist

transporters.

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The Diamond Heartstone by Leila Brown

Calling on the beast from within, he loosened the rein on his control.

Blood rushed through his veins like a flood overpowering a river. He’d

show her what happens when you cross the ‘White Tiger’, the most feared

man in the Theta Galaxy. He hadn’t earned the moniker for nothing.

Crossing him meant death. A slow painful one.

‚I think I have it,‛ she said, pulling her hand back.

Barrick’s chest bowed out, following the path of her clenched

fingers. She was pulling his very essence out.

‚Lady, what you’re about to have is a whole lot of trouble,‛ he

panted in metered breaths. The bones in his hands popped as they

elongated into paws. The fur surrounding them thickened.

‚Don’t even think about it unless you want me to cancel our deal,‛

she said with icy calm

‚Easy for you to say. I’m not trying to kill you,‛ he growled through

clenched teeth. ‚Yet.‛

‚Down boy. I’m not killing you.‛ She laughed at him. ‚I am

removing your heartstone. I’ve been told it is quite painful.‛

‚Look, witch, whatever you’re doing, finish it. Or I won’t be

responsible.‛ His nose shortened and seemingly melded into his face. He

could smell her now. She didn’t smell old. She smelled of dust and hope. If

hope had a smell. Her look and her smell didn’t mesh.

More of her trickery? He never should have agreed to use only the

floor’s track lighting. Too many shadows to hide in. No matter. When his

eyes changed he would get a true look at her. And if she continued to cause

him any amount of pain, there was little anyone would be able to do to

save her. The room was empty. There was nowhere for her to hide.

‚There it is.‛ Her hand slid from him without a sound. She held a

heart-shaped crystal in her pristine hand. It was amazingly clear with four

sliver thin black stripes running through it. ‚Almost pure. I’m amazed.‛

She slid him a challenging glance as she stroked the crystal with her

fingers.

‚That did not come out of my chest.‛ His beast seemed to all but

disappear. He had never banished the animal so quickly before. Something

slid up the side of one arm and down the other.

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The Diamond Heartstone by Leila Brown

‚Sure it did. This is yours and it will lead me to your true mate.‛

Her thumb stroked along side the stone again.

‚How long?‛ He bit his lip. Now the slight caress ran down the hair

on the back of his calves. He turned quickly looking for the culprit.

Something was wrong. It took several seconds for him to figure out what it

was. Everything around him appeared dull as if someone had drawn a

screen over his eyes. His normally super sharp vision was dull, almost

monotone in its bleakness.

‚There has only been one instance where I was unable to find a

mate in time,‛ she said, shaking her head in a tiny movement. She swept

her black full length cloak around her.

‚What do you mean ‘in time’?‛ He walked away from her and

started searching the room.

‚Precisely that. There is a time limit on these things. No one can

survive without their true essence for too long. What are you doing?‛

‚True essence?‛ He’d looked behind the few boxes and chairs in the

room. ‚There’s someone else in here. I can feel them.‛

‚Anything less and I could not be sure of finding the right one for

you. If you die, I’ll return half the credits to your family.‛ She pulled a

black case from beneath her cloak. With steady hands she placed the

crystal on a small reddish pillow and closed the case. ‚Did I forget to tell

you that you will feel each stroke of the heartstone? And not always the

same. Some may be more intense than others, of course.‛

‚Of course,‛ he echoed. That would have been good to know before

hand.

‚You will know when I find her,‛ she said, moving away from him.

‚How?‛ He rubbed fingers in his eyes as the color seemed to drain

from the room. Everything turned to shades of gray. How much of himself

was he going to lose? He looked up to ask the question, but the Peddler

had vanished.

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The Diamond Heartstone by Leila Brown

Chapter One

San Francisco, California

‚You like this one?‛ The small hunched woman behind the

makeshift flea market booth eyed her. The woman’s fingers glanced across

the yellowed plastic counter, lightly touching another of the beautiful

necklaces. Her voice floated over the loud voices around them.

Alycia James liked the look of the jewelry but she knew she didn’t

have the money for it. She nodded her head and started to walk away from

the stall. Why tempt herself?

‚Wait, I have others. Come look. These are special.‛

The woman’s voice stopped her in mid stride.
You can’t afford it, why

look and torture yourself?
What could looking hurt? Turning around, she

moved back to the stall and bent over as the woman pulled out a small

black case. Her wrinkled fingers pried open the leather lid.

‚I just got this one in.‛ The glowing shine of a crystal heart twinkled

up at her. It was only a bit smaller than the palm of her hand. ‚Go ahead.

Pick it up.‛

‚I couldn’t.‛ The sign above the stall read ‘You break it. You bought

it’ in bold black letters. There was no way she would be able to afford this.

Not working on an unpaid internship. This last semester had drained her

savings. Thank God this was the last one.

‚It’s sturdier than it looks.‛ The woman picked the crystal up with

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The Diamond Heartstone by Leila Brown

her gnarled fingers, pushing it toward Alycia.

‚It’s not stolen or anything, is it?‛ Alycia asked, eyeing the woman

suspiciously.

‚No. It was given to me freely by the owner,‛ she stated, pushing

the necklace at her again.

Alycia took the heart pendant. There was a thick black string tied

around it. Encasing it. Binding it.

‚Try it on,‛ the coarse voice coaxed.

‚Are you sure it won’t break?‛ Alycia asked as several young men

pushed by her. Her knees hit the table, jarring everything on it.

‚The string is really strong. It will not break. If it breaks, I will

replace it. No charge.‛ The woman smiled, showcasing a missing-tooth

smile.

The second she touched the crystal an unfamiliar warmth spread

through her. Something was holding her, caressing her. A feeling of safety

and security washed over her.

She wanted to slip it around her neck but didn’t. Once there, Alycia

didn’t know how she would be able to take it off again.

‚Put it on. See how pretty it will look against your dark skin.‛ The

woman gestured for her to try it on. She must know how the crystal made

a person feel. Was probably banking on it. Too bad, she didn’t have

enough money to be a mark.

But she really wanted to feel it next to her skin. She needed to

experience the pull of the chain around her neck, the weight of the stone

between her breasts. Alycia separated the ends of the chain and reattached

them underneath her hair. The heart hung in the center of her chest.

Something so big should feel heavy and clunky, but she could barely feel

its weight.

‚It is beautiful,‛ the woman pronounced, holding up a cracked

mirror. The stone twinkled, catching light from every angle. It almost

seemed to glow from within. It looked… expensive. Too expensive.

Anyone who saw her would see her thinned out cheeks, full lips and wide

brown eyes and wonder how she could afford this.

She pulled the chain up and was awed by the way it seemed to

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The Diamond Heartstone by Leila Brown

shine brighter against her dark caramel skin.

"Lovely," the woman said, turning the mirror up to catch Alycia's

face. ‚It is so beautiful against your skin.‛

"I'm sorry," Alycia said, reaching behind her head. She really

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