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The Sign of Seven Trilogy

Nora Roberts


  Honest Illusions

  Private Scandals

  Hidden Riches

  True Betrayals

  Montana Sky

  Born in Fire

  Born in Ice

  Born in Shame

  Daring to Dream

  Holding the Dream

  Finding the Dream



  Sea Swept

  Rising Tides

  Inner Harbor

  The Reef

  River’s End

  Jewels of the Sun

  Carolina Moon

  Tears of the Moon

  Heart of the Sea

  The Villa

  From the Heart

  Midnight Bayou

  Dance Upon the Air

  Heaven and Earth

  Face the Fire

  Chesapeake Blue


  Remember When


  Key of Light

  Key of Knowledge

  Key of Valor

  Northern Lights

  Blue Dahlia

  Black Rose

  Blue Smoke

  Red Lily

  Angels Fall

  Morrigan’s Cross

  Dance of the Gods

  Valley of Silence

  High Noon


  Black Hills

  Vision in White

  Bed of Roses


  Naked in Death

  Glory in Death

  Immortal in Death

  Rapture in Death

  Ceremony in Death

  Vengeance in Death

  Holiday in Death

  Conspiracy in Death

  Loyalty in Death

  Witness in Death

  Judgment in Death

  Betrayal in Death

  Seduction in Death

  Reunion in Death

  Purity in Death

  Portrait in Death

  Imitation in Death

  Divided in Death

  Visions in Death

  Survivor in Death

  Origin in Death

  Memory in Death

  Born in Death

  Innocent in Death

  Creation in Death

  Strangers in Death

  Salvation in Death

  Promises in Death

  Kindred in Death

  Fantasy in Death

  Nora Roberts The Sign of Seven Trilogy

  Blood Brothers

  The Hollow

  The Pagan Stone

  Nora Roberts


  Table of Contents

  Blood Brothers

  The Hollow

  The Pagan Stone

  It had been the Pagan Stone for hundreds of years, long before three boys stood around it and spilled their blood in a bond of brotherhood, unwittingly releasing a force bent on destruction…

  Every seven years, there comes a week in July when the locals do unspeakable things—and then don’t seem to remember them. The collective madness has made itself known beyond the town borders and has given Hawkins Hollow the reputation of a village possessed.

  This modern-day legend draws reporter and author Quinn Black to Hawkins Hollow with the hope of making the eerie happening the subject of her new book. It is only February, but Caleb Hawkins, descendent of the town founders, has already seen and felt the stirrings of evil. Though he can never forget the beginning of the terror in the woods twenty-one years ago, the signs have never been this strong before. Cal will need the help of his best friends, Fox and Gage, but surprisingly he must rely on Quinn as well. She, too, can see the evil that the locals cannot, somehow connecting her to the town—and to Cal. As winter turns to spring, Cal and Quinn will shed their inhibitions, surrendering to a growing desire. They will form the cornerstone of a group of men and women bound by fate, passion, and the fight against what is to come from out of the darkness…


  Published by the Penguin Group

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  Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)

  Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

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  Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


  A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

  Copyright © 2007 by Nora Roberts.

  Excerpt from The Hollow copyright © 2007 by Nora Roberts.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

  a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ISBN: 1-101-14733-4


  Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  JOVE® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  The “J” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  To my boys,

  who roamed the woods,

  even when they weren’t supposed to.

  Where God hath a temple,

  the Devil will have a chapel.


  The childhood shows the man

  As morning shows the day.




  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty


  Hawkins Hollow

  Maryland Province


  IT CRAWLED ALONG THE AIR THAT HUNG HEAVY as wet wool over the glade. Through the snakes of fog that slid silent over the ground, its hate crept. It came for him through the heat-smothered

  It wanted his death.

  So he waited as it pushed its way through the woods, its torch raised toward the empty sky, as it waded across the streams, around the thickets where small animals huddled in fear of the scent it bore with it.


  He had sent Ann and the lives she carried in her womb away, to safety. She had not wept, he thought now as he sprinkled the herbs he’d selected over water. Not his Ann. But he had seen the grief on her face, in the deep, dark eyes he had loved through this lifetime, and all the others before.

  The three would be born from her, raised by her, and taught by her. And from them, when the time came, there would be three more.

  What power he had would be theirs, these sons, who would loose their first cries long, long after this night’s work was done. To leave them what tools they would need, the weapons they would wield, he risked all he had, all he was.

  His legacy to them was in blood, in heart, in vision.

  In this last hour he would do all he could to provide them with what was needed to carry the burden, to remain true, to see their destiny.

  His voice was strong and clear as he called to wind and water, to earth and fire. In the hearth the flames snapped. In the bowl the water trembled.

  He laid the bloodstone on the cloth. Its deep green was generously spotted with red. He had treasured this stone, as had those who’d come before him. He had honored it. And now he poured power into it as one would pour water into a cup.

  So his body shook and sweat and weakened as light hovered in a halo around the stone.

  “For you now,” he murmured, “sons of sons. Three parts of one. In faith, in hope, in truth. One light, united, to strike back dark. And here, my vow. I will not rest until destiny is met.”

  With the athame, he scored his palm so his blood fell onto the stone, into the water, and into the flame.

  “Blood of my blood. Here I will hold until you come for me, until you loose what must be loosed again on the world. May the gods keep you.”

  For a moment there was grief. Even through his purpose, there was grief. Not for his life, as the sands of it were dripping down the glass. He had no fear of death. No fear of what he would soon embrace that was not death. But he grieved that he would never lay his lips on Ann’s again in this life. He would not see his children born, nor the children of his children. He grieved that he would not be able to stop the suffering to come, as he had been unable to stop the suffering that had come before, in so many other lifetimes.

  He understood that he was not the instrument, but only the vessel to be filled and emptied at the needs of the gods.

  So, weary from the work, saddened by the loss, he stood outside the little hut, beside the great stone, to meet his fate.

  It came in the body of a man, but that was a shell. As his own body was a shell. It called itself Lazarus Twisse, an elder of “the godly.” He and those who followed had settled in the wilderness of this province when they broke with the Puritans of New England.

  He studied them now in their torchlight, these men and the one who was not a man. These, he thought, who had come to the New World for religious freedom, and then persecuted and destroyed any who did not follow their single, narrow path.

  “You are Giles Dent.”

  “I am,” he said, “in this time and this place.”

  Lazarus Twisse stepped forward. He wore the unrelieved formal black of an elder. His high-crowned, wide-brimmed hat shadowed his face. But Giles could see his eyes, and in his eyes, he saw the demon.

  “Giles Dent, you and the female known as Ann Hawkins have been accused and found guilty of witchcraft and demonic practices.”

  “Who accuses?”

  “Bring the girl forward!” Lazarus ordered.

  They pulled her, a man on each arm. She was a slight girl, barely six and ten by Giles’s calculation. Her face was wax white with fear, her eyes drenched with it. Her hair had been shorn.

  “Hester Deale, is this the witch who seduced you?”

  “He and the one he calls wife laid hands on me.” She spoke as if in a trance. “They performed ungodly acts upon my body. They came to my window as ravens, flew into my room in the night. They stilled my throat so I could not speak or call for help.”

  “Child,” Giles said gently, “what has been done to you?”

  Those fear-swamped eyes stared through him. “They called to Satan as their god, and cut the throat of a cock in sacrifice. And drank its blood. They forced its blood on me. I could not stop them.”

  “Hester Deale, do you renounce Satan?”

  “I do renounce him.”

  “Hester Deale, do you renounce Giles Dent and the woman Ann Hawkins as witches and heretics?”

  “I do.” Tears spilled down her cheeks. “I do renounce them, and pray to God to save me. Pray to God to forgive me.”

  “He will,” Giles whispered. “You are not to blame.”

  “Where is the woman Ann Hawkins?” Lazarus demanded, and Giles turned his clear gray eyes to him.

  “You will not find her.”

  “Stand aside. I will enter this house of the devil.”

  “You will not find her,” Giles repeated. For a moment he looked beyond Lazarus to the men and the handful of women who stood in his glade.

  He saw death in their eyes, and more, the hunger for it. This was the demon’s power, and his work.

  Only in Hester’s did Giles see fear or sorrow. So he used what he had to give, pushed his mind toward hers. Run!

  He saw her jolt, stumble back, then he turned to Lazarus.

  “We know each other, you and I. Dispatch them, release them, and it will be between us alone.”

  For an instant he saw the gleam of red in Lazarus’s eyes. “You are done. Burn the witch!” he shouted. “Burn the devil house and all within it!”

  They came with torches, and with clubs. Giles felt the blows rain on him, and the fury of the hate that was the demon’s sharpest weapon.

  They drove him to his knees, and the wood of the hut began to flame and smoke. Screams rang in his head, the madness of them.

  With the last of his power he reached out toward the demon inside the man, with red rimming its dark eyes as it fed on the hate, the fear, the violence. He felt it gloat, he felt it rising, so sure of its victory, and the feast to follow.

  And he ripped it to him, through the smoking air. He heard it scream in fury and pain as the flames bit into flesh. And he held it to him, close as a lover as the fire consumed them.

  And with that union the fire burst, spread, destroyed every living thing in the glade.

  It burned for a day and a night, like the belly of hell.


  Hawkins Hollow


  July 6, 1987

  INSIDE THE PRETTY KITCHEN OF THE PRETTY house on Pleasant Avenue, Caleb Hawkins struggled not to squirm as his mother packed her version of campout provisions.

  In his mother’s world, ten-year-old boys required fresh fruit, homemade oatmeal cookies (they weren’t so bad), half a dozen hard-boiled eggs, a bag of Ritz crackers made into sandwiches with Jif peanut butter for filling, some celery and carrot sticks (yuck!), and hearty ham-and-cheese sandwiches.

  Then there was the thermos of lemonade, the stack of paper napkins, and the two boxes of Pop-Tarts she wedged into the basket for breakfast.

  “Mom, we’re not going to starve to death,” he complained as she stood deliberating in front of an open cupboard. “We’re going to be right in Fox’s backyard.”

  Which was a lie, and kinda hurt his tongue. But she’d never let him go if he told her the truth. And, sheesh, he was ten. Or would be the very next day.

  Frannie Hawkins put her hands on her hips. She was a pert, attractive blonde with summer blue eyes and a stylish curly perm. She was the mother of three, and Cal was her baby and only boy. “Now, let me check that backpack.”


  “Honey, I just want to b
e sure you didn’t forget anything.” Ruthless in her own sunny way, Frannie unzipped Cal’s navy blue pack. “Change of underwear, clean shirt, socks, good, good, shorts, toothbrush. Cal, where are the Band-Aids I told you to put in, and the Bactine, the bug repellant.”

  “Sheesh, we’re not going to Africa.”

  “All the same,” Frannie said, and did her signature finger wave to send him along to gather up the supplies. While he did, she slipped a card out of her pocket and tucked it into the pack.

  He’d been born—after eight hours and twelve minutes of vicious labor—at one minute past midnight. Every year she stepped up to his bed at twelve, watched him sleep for that minute, then kissed him on the cheek.

  Now he’d be ten, and she wouldn’t be able to perform the ritual. Because it made her eyes sting, she turned away to wipe at her spotless counter as she heard his tromping footsteps.

  “I got it all, okay?”

  Smiling brightly, she turned back. “Okay.” She stepped over to rub a hand over his short, soft hair. He’d been her towheaded baby boy, she mused, but his hair was darkening, and she suspected it would be a light brown eventually.

  Just as hers would be without the aid of Born Blonde.

  In a habitual gesture, Frannie tapped his dark-framed glasses back up his nose. “You make sure you thank Miss Barry and Mr. O’Dell when you get there.”

  “I will.”

  “And when you leave to come home tomorrow.”

  “Yes, ma’am.”

  She took his face in her hands, looked through the thick lenses into eyes the same color as his father’s calm gray ones. “Behave,” she said and kissed his cheek. “Have fun.” Then the other. “Happy birthday, my baby.”

  Usually it mortified him to be called her baby, but for some reason, just then, it made him feel sort of gooey and good.

  “Thanks, Mom.”