The Sentient

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Book I of The Sentient Prophecy      

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What readers are saying:

"Although fiction, something I rarely if ever read, I found the story compelling me to read on and on. Excellent. Inspiring. Awakening." 

"The Sentient is one of those books that has you hooked right from the first sentence, not from the first action scene or the fist bantering argument, but the first sentence...Jessica Crawford writes amazing characters that take you on the journey their going through..."

"If you enjoy magic, mystery and a bit of romance- I highly recommend this book."


When a patient at the birth center begs her to take her baby and keep him safe, Anna finds herself swept up into the affairs of the mysterious Dorn family. The Dorns belong to the Sentient, a clandestine group whose study of alchemy has granted them near-immortality along with other powers.

Anna finds herself at the mercy of the Dorns. The patriarch's health is rapidly deteriorating even though his kind can supposedly never fall ill. The daughter has borne a child to a human man in spite of the prophecy foretelling that such a half-breed will bring about the end of life as the Sentient know it. The sexy younger son can be just as infuriating as he is charming. The older son thinks Anna knows too much and should be silenced.

When her world collides with theirs, nothing will ever be quite the same for Anna, or for the Sentient.


After leaving the drawing room I felt mentally drained, but physically I was too keyed up to settle down for the night. I followed Nathaniel's suggestion of exploring the place. I did encounter some locked doors, as he had forewarned, but it wasn't long before I came across the library. I have always loved books, and my heart nearly fell still at the sight of two tiers of bookshelves all along each wall of the room. A narrow winding staircase led to the upper level. Sconces bathed the expansive space in a diffuse light. A broad mahogany table dominated one end of the room, an overstuffed sofa and chairs arranged at the other.
The library was suffused with a silence that I found comforting. Advancing into the room, I approached one wall of leather-bound books. I grazed a finger across the spine of the first volume and traced a line down to the last on the shelf. That one I pulled out from its place to inspect. Gold leaf lettering on the front identified it as The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.
"Looking for a bit of light reading?"
"Oh!" I jerked in surprise and spun around at the same time, a combination of moves that sent the book spinning through that air. It landed several feet in front of me with a resounding thud.
It was Jameson who had spoken. He must have come into the room without my noticing. He stood with hands slid into his pants pockets, thumbs hooked over the edges, staring at where Darwin's masterpiece lay awry on the floor. With brows raised, he lifted green eyes to consider me through fine lashes.
"Oh," I repeated. "It's you." Still, my heart continued to race. I was annoyed. Couldn't he have given some warning before startling me like that? Did he have to always look so smug? Like he knew just what reaction the sight of him standing there like that had on me, and he was enjoying my discomfort? I was tempted to give him a piece of my mind. I bit my tongue, though. Jameson Dorn made me nervous, even if in an entirely different way than his brother did. 
He flashed me a grin that appeared much more sincere than any Victor had ever given me. "You're right! It is me!" He sauntered over to the table and swung a chair around. Straddling the seat, he sat in it backwards, arms crossed atop the back of the chair. "But for future reference, you can call me Jameson. Everybody does. Well, most everybody. I can think of a few people who have some other choice names for me." His face held a slight flush. He seemed relaxed, amiable, and quite possibly inebriated.
I scurried forward and bent down to retrieve the fallen book. Remembering the appraising looks he had given me at dinner, I sprung back up and clutched the book in front of my chest, shielding myself. "Did you follow me in here?" I asked.
Jameson shrugged. "I have to admit, I find watching you amusing."
I felt my own cheeks begin to glow. Turning around, I stepped back to the shelf and slid Darwin's book back in its place. "I didn't realize my life was a spectator sport," I retorted. I turned to face Jameson again and placed my hands on my hips, then remembered myself and crossed my arms in front of my chest once more. Jameson's smile widened, and I felt myself grow more aggravated. "Well you could help me out by cluing me in on what the hell is going on here, instead of letting me stumble through it all on my own. Unless, of course, that would ruin your fun."
His face softened. "I am in a generous mood this evening. No doubt due in small part to drinking your brandy as well as my own." He extended his arms and held them outstretched over the back of the chair, palms up. "Ask me whatever it is you might want to know."
I took a cautious step forward. "Okay." Where to start? "So tell me what the deal is with your sister and her baby."
"The deal. Well that is quite a broad inquiry. But given what I heard happened at the hospital, I think I see what you'd really like to know." He crossed his arms once again. "Cassandra and her baby are unharmed. My father has ordered that they be confined to her room. It's more like a suite of rooms, actually, at the back of the house. Cozy, nice view."
I was puzzled, but relieved. While being imprisoned by your own family is hardly an ideal situation, I had feared much worse for Cassandra and her baby.
"She was so scared," I explained to Jameson. "I even thought their lives might be in danger. His, or hers. Or both."
"They were," he replied. "By all rights they should both be confined to their coffins in our charming family graveyard right now, rather than in the house. But Cassandra has always been my father's favorite. He could not bring himself to sentence her to death, and he was helpless to ignore her pleas for the life of her child. Internment within her rooms is a far less dreadful punishment, I think you'll agree."
My mouth opened a couple of times before I could bring forth a response. "Punishment for what?"
Jameson held my gaze. His grin had dwindled to a mere crook of the lips, and some of the mischievous shine had fled his eyes. "For conceiving a child with a human," he answered finally.
I think my mind might have frozen at that time. Synapses ceased firing. Was he messing with me? Was this just another form of cruelty? If this was a joke, I didn't get it. "So, you're saying your sister isn't human?"
"I'm saying none of us in this family are."
I wondered if this was just more of his teasing. I wasn't sure if I should feel indignant or intrigued. "Okay. I'll play along. If you're not human, then what are you?" I asked.
"You mean, what am I besides handsome, intelligent and witty?" His attempt at humor was half-hearted, more like a reflex. In actuality he seemed to be preparing to enter more serious territory. "We call ourselves the Sentient. Some self-important old fool devised that name ages ago. We...know things. Powerful things. Things the rest of humanity never figured out." He suddenly pushed himself to standing and crossed to another of the library's walls. "Certain knowledge allowed us to alter ourselves, to develop abilities that could be passed on genetically to offspring. For that reason the aforementioned old fools like to think of us as a new race, a separate species other than mere humans. But of course by definition two species can't breed and create viable offspring. So my sister has done her part to disprove that theory." I had twisted in my place to follow his progress through the room. Having found the book he had been after, he lifted it off the shelf and carried it back to the table. "Here. This details some of our humble beginnings."
I slid into a seat and studied the book. "A History of Alchemy?" I said, flipping open the cover.
As I skimmed through the pages I paused every once in a while to read a passage:
"...with the goal of evolving from an imperfect, diseased, corruptible, and transient state into a perfect, healthy, incorruptible, and everlasting one..."
"...turning lead into gold as an analogy for personal transformation and purification..."
"...achieving perfection, which for mankind is longevity, then immortality and, finally, redemption..."
Jameson had been reading over my shoulder. He grunted and said, "Well, we have quite a way to go for the perfection and redemption bits, as you probably can see for yourself after having met my delightful relations."
"But the rest of it?"
"The longevity we've mastered, by managing to slow the aging process. We usually live approximately twice as long as the normal human life expectancy, give or take a couple of decades. We've made some small progress on the immortality front. Which is precisely why my father's illness is so distressing. The other Sentient would be rather alarmed, if they knew. Panicked, even."
"What, none of you has gotten sick before?" I asked, scanning the book's many cryptic symbols and diagrams.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jameson shake his head. "No. We can die from physical trauma, if the damage is extensive enough. Murder is not unheard of in our ranks. But we are immune to illness. Long ago our forefathers discovered how to fortify our bodies against such things. My father's condition is unprecedented, and thus, very worrisome."
I realized I was shaking my head while he spoke. I clapped the book shut.
"Having trouble believing me?" Jameson wanted to know.
"Well, yes, actually. Can you give me any proof?"
"Stick around for another century or so you'll find me still alive and well. A handsome, intelligent and witty middle-aged man. Unless of course you mean to murder me before then."
I must have looked nonplussed. With a brusque nod of his head, he took a few steps backward and beckoned for me to follow him. "Let me show you something." He strode to the opposite end of the library, near the sofa and chairs. When he saw that I sat rooted to my chair the smirk crept back onto his face. "We may not be human, but I assure you we are not vampires either. I promise I won't bite you. Not unless you ask me to."
The way he looked at me was so intense, it was like his gaze pierced me to the spot. I felt like I was the only thing in the room, the only thing truly present, and everything else faded into the background. It was a feeling I was not used to. It made my insides turn to slush and I had to fight the urge to find a place to hide. Instead I collected myself enough to rise from my chair and cross to where Jameson stood waiting for me, making a conscious effort to keep my head held high, to not give away the quivering I felt in my belly.
"You see this here?" He indicated a small design that had been etched into the wood paneling of the wall between two sets of bookshelves. It looked like a spear, or maybe an arrow, at an angle pointing up and to the right. A wavy line wound along the shaft. I watched as Jameson placed a hand flat over the design, and then as a muted light emanated from the spot he touched, shining between his fingers. A great rumbling noise filled the room, taking me by surprise. I was disoriented for a moment, the room seemed to move around me. And then I realized it was moving. The bookshelf to the right of the symbol was slowly swinging outward. It was opening just like a door.
I could do nothing but watch until the shelf finally came to a rest and all was quiet once more. Through the opening that had materialized I could see what seemed to be another library. This one had walls of stone, and more modest bookshelves. Even from a distance I could tell the books they held were much older than those in the outer-library. I was overcome with the musty scent of knowledge waiting to be soaked up. It brought to mind the image of brittle pages crumbling beneath the brush of a finger.
Near the center of the room a pedestal held up a massive book. I took a step forward to get a closer look, but Jameson flung an arm out in front of me. Warmth seeped into me from where his arm pressed against my ribs. I leapt back as if I had been stung. Even after the contact was broken, I swear I could still feel the heat of his touch.
"Sorry," he said, "you can look but you can't enter. The others would probably be furious if they knew I even showed you this much." He didn't seem at all displeased by that idea. He placed a hand on the wall once more and the bookshelf began to slide shut. It slammed into place with a final scraping sound. "Now, you try."
I looked to Jameson, who gestured toward the wall with his chin. I laid a tentative hand over the symbol, just as he had. Nothing happened.
"You see, these things only work for those with Sentient blood in their veins."
I let my hand fall.
"Alright. Okay." I turned toward Jameson. "So you and your family are part of a group of people called the Sentient. You know all sorts of really important stuff. You live a super long time. You hide libraries. But none of this explains why Cassandra is being punished for having a baby with a human?"
"How neglectful of me." Jameson began walking back toward the other end of the room and I followed a few steps behind. "We have a prophecy. Because what new race of enlightened beings wouldn't quake in the face of superstition and call it divination?
"Long ago it was foretold that the offspring of a Sentient and a human would be born. This half-breed would have the ability to destroy the Sentient and everything we stand for, unravel the very soul of our being, et cetera, et cetera–you know, cryptic prophecy language. In response, any time an ill-fated Sentient made the mistake of impregnating or becoming impregnated by a human, the lords of the families would have the child, and usually the offenders, executed. They do not take kindly to the threat of having the very souls of their beings unraveled.
“That is why Cassandra and her whelp were supposed to have been killed. But, as we have already established, my father could not bear it and sentenced them to indefinite confinement instead. If the other Houses ever discovered the truth – well, let’s just say the proverbial shit would hit the fan. The proverbial fan, I suppose.”
I considered all of this information. After a while, I asked, "Then why would any Sentient know, why would you ever sleep with a human?"
Jameson slid his hands back into his pockets. "Why did Juliet bat her eyes at Romeo? Why did Lancelot make off with his king's wife? Maybe for some just the idea of forbidden love is enough." He shrugged. "Besides, not all of us are thrilled with what the Sentient have come to stand for. An inflated sense of entitlement can be a very unattractive thing. A dangerous thing."
Jameson had certainly been forthcoming. I was getting answers, even if they were far from what I had expected. But something was making me uneasy. Why would he be sharing all of this with me so freely? I could think of at least one possible answer.
Perhaps the Dorn family was going to ensure that I could never pass it on.
I asked anyway. "Aren't you afraid that I'll reveal all your secrets to the rest of the world?"
"What I have told you this evening, sweetheart, is hardly all of our secrets. Besides, I don't see you as a threat."
A chill shot through me. "Why not?"
Jameson looked me up and down unhurriedly before he answered. "Too short."
With that, he left the library. 

I pinned some images over at Pinterest, showing some of the Vanderbilt estates I had in mind when writing about Willow Glen Manor, and some of the actors I would potentially cast in the roles of some of the characters in the movie adaptation of The Sentient :) Check it out here:

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