Book Highlight: Under the Stone Paw

Anne Le Clair, a successful, young attorney, has always managed to remain free from her family's gothic past - until now. When she inherits her eccentric aunt's antique necklace though, she finds no escape from its secrets. Anne is immersed in a crash course of forbidden wisdom, secret societies, and her family's own legacy. She soon discovers that her aunt's necklace is one of just six powerful "keys" that, when combined with the other five at the appointed time, unlocks the legendary Hall of Records. But the shadowy Illuminati is working behind the scenes to uncover the same powerful secrets - and make them their own.


"So you have this whole secret life I know nothing about?" Anne quipped.

Thomas was quiet.

"Oh, my God." Anne put down her drink and stared at him. "You do, don't you?"

"Let's just say I know more about the family than you do. But you knew that already, dear sister."

The main course arrived, and Anne began methodically cutting up her steak, wondering how to breech this gap between them.

"Why do you persist in eating that stuff?" he asked. "You know how much heart disease there is in our family."

"It's from Argentina. No chemicals. Besides, we die from assassinations, don't we?"

Thomas frowned. "Cynic."

"So, if you knew Cynthia so well, why didn't she leave you her whole estate?"

"She left me her library, all her papers and research."

"Everybody knows you love those dusty family archives."

"Besides, some things have to go through the female line."

Anne sat forward. "Like what? What does that mean, anyway?"

Thomas considered her. "Do you really want to know?"

"Of course. Oh, you are so exasperating. Why do you all have to be so mysterious?"

"Who else is being mysterious?"

The waiter came to ask if everything was acceptable, and Anne was saved from further comment.

After a moment, Thomas asked, "What is it you're not telling me?"

"You're the one hiding things."

"Annie." Thomas took her hand. "This is your big brother talking to you. What's the matter?"

Anne looked up at the amber eyes fixed on her.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"Why have you never told me about your relationship with Cynthia before now?"

"Because Mother insisted I leave you out of it, and when you got older, you made it clear you weren't interested in learning more of the family, uh," he hesitated, "legacy. I respected your wishes."

Anne considered this. It was true that when Thomas had tried to talk about his ideas or tell her a family story, she resisted, even ridiculed him. He often flew off to explore the musty libraries of some minor branch of a noble family or an obscure metaphysical organization, but she never listened when he told her about an enticing find. It never excited her. It only served to annoy her that this brilliant man wasted his talents on such pursuits. She'd accepted her mother's view of things as a child and never really questioned her rational worldview. "I guess there's a lot I don't know about you."

Thomas set his glass down and looked across the table at Anne. "I've often wished that was different."

Now the words tumbled out. "I had these weird dreams last night, and Aunt Cynthia left me this odd necklace as a gift with a very peculiar note."

Thomas glanced around. The tables nearest them were empty. "Tell me what happened. I want to hear about the note and the crystal. Please. This is very important."

"How did you know it was a crystal?"

Thomas ignored the question. "Tell me what happened.

Anne relayed the story of the crystal necklace, the note from Cynthia and the faces she'd seen sitting before the fire. When she finished, Thomas studied her for a long time. "Say something. You're making me nervous."

"Actually, that might be an appropriate response to this development."

"What do you mean?"

Thomas squared his shoulders. "You need to make a decision and you need to make it quickly. You've always told the family you wanted nothing to do with our legacy." Anne started to speak, but he interrupted her. "Hear me out. If you keep this crystal, then you'll have to learn what it's for and how to use it."

"Use it? It's just a necklace."

"It is far more than a necklace, my dear sister. You've already had a vision using it."

"Vision? I fell asleep on the couch."

"Oh, right." He looked around again, then lowered his voice. "If you don't want to take on the responsibility of being the keeper of this crystal, then you must give it to Grandmother Elizabeth immediately. If you keep it like some bauble in your jewelry case, your life may be in danger."

"My life?"

"Quiet." Thomas looked around again.

Anne lowered her voice. "Make sense. How can a necklace threaten me?"

"I'm sorry, Anne. I want to tell you, but we can't talk about this here."

Anne sat back in her chair. "What's the big deal?"

"Are you staying at the estate after the party?"

"I always do."

"Good. We can talk Sunday. I think Grandmother will want to join us. Is that okay with you?"

"What is the big deal?" Anne repeated more emphatically.

"I'll tell you then. Meanwhile, just leave the necklace in its case."

Anne sighed.

"And don't tell mother."

"For God's sake…"

"Please." Thomas watched her earnestly.

"Oh, all right. But I think Mother is right. The family has damaged your common sense."

"Good. Now I've got to scoot."

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About the Author:

Theresa Crater has published two contemporary fantasies, Beneath the Hallowed Hill & Under the Stone Paw and several short stories, most recently "White Moon" in Riding the Moon and "Bringing the Waters" in The Aether Age: Helios. She's also published poetry and a baker's dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. Born in North Carolina, she now lives in Colorado with her Egyptologist partner and their two cats. Visit her website at