Authors: Eden Ashley
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2013 by Eden Ashley
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Cover art: Nathalia Suellen
Kali is beginning to regain her memories. In doing so, she discovers old secrets and betrayals that threaten to unravel her present and shake the foundation for Rhane’s belief in her innocence. While her maturing abilities present unique challenges, a bigger problem arises when Kali learns her ex-boyfriend has made a misguided deal with the enemy in order to win her back—a decision that may ultimately cost him his humanity.
The strength of the bond between young and ancient lovers will be tested…and if Kali and Rhane are to survive, they must find a way to be unbreakable.
The psychiatrist held
the chart in hand, trying hard not to let the subject see just how uneasy he was. He was the professional, the doctor. He was there to diagnose and provide treatment. Dr. Graves couldn’t fulfill that duty if he were afraid.
“This is your third session and we are well into another hour of complete silence. I can’t help if you won’t talk to me.”
The young man sat impossibly still, staring directly over the doctor’s head to where the clock hung on the wall. The only movement was the rise and fall of his chest.
“Mr. Youngblood, you voluntarily entered counseling because you needed help to manage your temper. Mr. Faust noted that you were afraid you might cause serious harm to your girlfriend or someone else. He referred you to me only because he felt he didn’t have the credentials to deal with your unique set of problems. I assure you that I can help you. But in order for me to do so, you must talk to me.”
“Mr. Youngblood, do you understand that you will not be able to return to school until I deem you mentally sound?”
A soft thunk from the clock signaled the passage of yet another minute. Dr. Graves sighed. This was no way to make progress.
the soft chart, closed until that moment. “Callan…you prefer to be called Cal. Since you have refused to contribute to your rehabilitation for the last three sessions, I took the liberty of pulling your file from children’s services. Before emancipating yourself at the age of sixteen, you underwent horrific abuse at the hands of your father. Would you care to talk about it?”
Cal’s eyes gradually slid down the wall to sharpen onto Dr. Graves’s face. Encouraged by the response, the doctor continued. “From age one through fourteen, you suffered twenty fractures and four mild to moderate concussions. You were a frequent bed wetter. Your last accident occurred when you were thirteen. You commented here that your father made you sit in a freezing tub of water filled with chunks of ice for thirty minutes. ‘My
hands and feet were blue when he finally let me out,’ you said.” He paused briefly. “Your father was a very wealthy man. He must have paid off a lot of people in order to keep you in his custody.”
A wave of anger washed across Cal’s features. His fingers dug into the chair’s leather armrests.
That was good. Anger was something. It was at least the emotion the boy had come to therapy to deal with. “Tell me about the time he locked you in the closet for three days without food or water. What were you being punished for?”
Cal’s face smoothed into a sort of frightening calm. He leaned forward. Blue eyes gazed steadily at Dr. Graves. “I will tell you another story, human. One of power, betrayal and vengeance. Only then can your weak mind hope to understand my cause.
“Nine centuries ago, I learned the reality of my existence, the reason I and others like me had been created. Thought free men, we were truly pawns in a game reserved for those who believed themselves gods. Hundreds of my kin died in ignorance to correct a mistake not of our making. I discovered the existence of a real monster, one with power unmatched by even those who made it. Division exists among them, these
.” Venom dripped from Cal’s tongue as he pronounced the word. “Division makes them weak. They used Warekin to fight their mistake, to protect their secret. I acted to save my people from dying in a war that was not ours. Killing our makers was the only way to save us. It is the only way to save us.”
Thrilled the subject had finally opened up, Dr. Graves started writing furiously. Delusions. Personality disorder. Paranoia. Schizophrenia. He underlined the last word three times.
“To fight these beings I needed the support of our armies. But my brothers would not give them to me. Civil war started…I regret causing it even to this day.” Cal’s voice shook with bitterness. His eyes dropped to the floor. “I lost something very precious to me.”
In the silence, Dr. Graves looked up from his notepad. “Please continue, Cal. This is progress.”
“After defeat, I was stripped of my position and accused of high treason, hunted like an animal for many years by my own people. To Builders, the knowledge I possessed was a crime worthy of the severest punishment. They locked me in a tomb, taking away my ability to move, my ability to feel. For nine hundred years, I was trapped inside a useless body, void of sight and sound, fully conscious with only thoughts of regret and revenge. I became a very, very angry individual.”
Dr. Graves quickly jotted “transference” on the paper. “What does the anger make you want to do, Cal?”
“It makes us want to kill.”
The switch in reflexive pronouns made Dr. Graves raise a brow. “Are there other voices inside your head speaking to you, Cal?”
The young man chuckled. It was a hollow, grating noise that ended in a hiss. A chill slid up the doctor’s spine. The same sort of behavior had been studied in serial killers—charming, detached, and completely unstable. Dr. Graves was all too aware his subject might have deeper issues than anyone realized.
“We want to tell you something, doctor. Someone should know the truth.” Cal’s voice echoed as though someone else was speaking alongside him, overlapping the same words. “And then you are going to fill out the document that allows Callan Youngblood to return to school.”
“I-I can’t make that recommendation.”
Dr. Graves tried not to wet his pants or faint when Cal suddenly rose from the seat, crossing the room in a fraction of a second. The face held mere centimeters from his had taken on animalistic features. Coarse patches of fur punctuated thick, leathered skin. The boy’s eyes changed from blue to red and glittered like rubies.
Miserably failing in his first ambition, the doctor concentrated on not fainting. “W-what do you want to tell me?”
Cal smiled. Even his teeth were no longer human in appearance.
“It’s not the siren we’re after.”
There only darkness…cold, wet darkness, and a distant melody chanting from the depths. Death asked him to accept its black hood of oblivion, but Rhane opened his eyes.
A woman stood over him. Her skin was tanned golden from the sun
. Black hair flowed like silk curtains around fierce grey eyes that bore into his. Had her appearance not been so stunning, the woman would have been frightening.
She stared for so long, her voice surprised him when it suspended the silence. “Your wounds healed as if they were nothing. You are of the hunters.”
Then the woman attacked.
A burst of fire ignited the ground where Rhane had lain only a second before. Another explosion followed. The fire was grey. The same grey as the woman’s eyes. Rhane dodged the flames, sensed rather than saw the presence behind him, and moved just in time to avoid a pair of katara thrusting into the space his head had just occupied.
Retreating to what seemed like a safe distance, he offered an explanation for intruding upon the strange creature’s territory. “I did not intend to come here. There was a terrible storm, and I went overboard.”
Two funnels of fire blazed a path toward him. The twin combustions twisted, rapidly growing and shrinking in size. Their trajectory was almost haphazard. But somehow the woman was controlling them. Rhane watched, found the pattern, skirted between the flames. The hairs on the back of his neck came away singed.
The spirals passed, and suddenly the woman was there. She hissed, attacking once more with the daggers. Rhane was impressed with her skill. He drew his sword, barely blocking a fisted stab at his gut. Dropping to the sand, he brought one long leg around and swept the woman’s feet from beneath her. She landed hard, but was alert enough to hurl one of the katara straight at his face, propelling it forward within a burst of fire. It was done at such close range that Rhane had few options. Shielding himself with leather bracers, he twisted away. The blade hit. Heated metal left his skin burning, and blood spurted from a deep gash in his arm. Her weapons were crafted from bane silver. The pain of it was unmistakable. Rhane would have to kill or be killed.
Right before his eyes, the day exploded as the woman burst into a ball of grey and black fire. Rhane’s feet left the ground, and he found himself sailing through the air with the smell of burning hair and flesh
in his nostrils. It was exhilarating. Never before had he seen such a display of power, not even from a creature of her nature.
“I am the last of my sisters.” The woman’s eyes were dark and furious. “If you have come to claim my life, you will not have it easily.” She adjusted the single blade she now held and strode toward him with a determination that would only be satisfied by his death.
Captivated by the sway of her hips, Rhane brought his sword in an upward sweep just as another blast of fire tunneled straight at him. The weapon did its job, deflecting her flames away. She charged. Her movements were almost as fast as his. Her performance was an enchanting dance, a showcase of remarkable agility. The longer the fight went on, the less Rhane wanted to end it.
They battled for an hour. The woman tired and weakened
so much, killing her would have been easy. But Rhane hesitated, ignored several openings he could have taken to end her life. Bloody, exhausted, and breathtakingly beautiful—she continued the fight. And would have fought him to her last breath.
Most likely realizing he was toying with her, the woman’s eyes flashed. “Why don’t you end this?”
She lunged. Rhane stepped aside, carefully dodging the thrust of a razor sharp blade. He grasped her wrists, he pinned both arms across her chest and spun her around. All of her softness molded into his battle hardened body. She smelled of the ocean and the earth. It was intoxicating.
“Because I don’t want to,” he whispered into her ear, answering truthfully.
For a long moment, the only movement was the rise and fall of her torso beneath her labored breathing. Though her body was rigid, she didn’t struggle.
“I don’t want to hurt you,” he said.
The woman relaxed into his hold. A second later, her legs bunched as she threw her weight upward in what had to be the last of her strength. Rhane loosened his grip so her wrists would not be broken, yielding to the motion as she flipped into the air. Her feet connected solidly with his back, sending him along for a hard landing in packed sand. She came down on top. Well-muscled legs straddled his torso. Her weight on his chest felt better than good.
Angry and frightened, her eyes met his.
Rhane dared a smile.
The woman blinked.
She sat back a little but didn’t attack again. Rhane reached up very slowly and brushed a thumb across her cheek. His eyes moved over her form. Multiple cuts covered her arms. A deeper one marred the flesh of her side.
“I hurt you. I’m sorry.” He brought a finger to his own arm, finding fresh blood there. He used that finger to brush his blood into the severest of her wounds. The cuts healed instantly. “Some things I can take back,” he said softly.
Her eyes widened. Then her head whipped up, hearing only now what Rhane was aware of for some time. The voices of his men. The woman stood. Looking at him one more time, she turned and darted off into the trees.
Rhane stared after her. He only
took his eyes away when he heard York’s voice. “Kali’s father is here to see you.”
He glanced at the clock. “It’s barely four a.m. And I haven’t showered yet.”
“I’ll send him away if that’s what you want.”
Rhane shook his head and sat up. “No. Give me fifteen minutes. Then bring him
in.” He pushed his body to the edge of the bed. The movement wasn’t painful exactly. But sore muscles informed him how much they resented being made to move.
Even in darkness, York noticed the corners of Rhane’s eyes pinch ever so slightly. “How’s the back?”
“Just give me fifteen minutes, York.”