Authors: Lisa Renee Jones
Beast of Fire
By Lisa Renee Jones
Knights of White
Lucan and Kresley’s story!
Copyright 2012 Lisa Renee Jones
Published By Lisa Renee Jones
, Steena Holmes
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The Knights of White
Sentenced to an eternity on earth for killing his brother Abel, Cain became angry and sought the favor of the Underworld. By doing so, it is said that he was granted magical powers and given leave from the physical plane. But his gifts came with a price. Cain must oversee the Darkland Beasts, evil beings who walk the earth. Hungry for power, he builds his army of Beasts, stealing male souls while simply using and discarding the females.
Over time, the scale of good and evil began to tilt. The Archangel Raphael, the healer of the earth, was given the duty of balancing the scale again. To do this, he assigned Salvador, his most trusted companion, the duty of saving those souls worthy of serving good against evil. These unique individuals, victims of the Darkland Beasts, are given back their souls and enlisted into an elite army...The Knights of White.
But in each of these Knights still lurks a Beast of darkness that only they can completely dispel. Each Knight must face their Beast and defeat it. For the simple laws of the universe present a balance of good and evil, and these Knights have tasted the temptations of evil. They must prove they are worthy of the soul returned to them and capable of facing the Underworld without defeat.
These Knights must prove themselves worthy of a mate born of all that is pure and good. If they do so, then, and only then, will the Knight become all that he can be -– a magical warrior against evil, gifted with a love that will guide him through darkness to light.
Kresley Ward gripped the saber sword in her hand with an iron fist, her blade crashing against her opponent, her determination to perfect the skill of fighting and undo the wrongs of her past the only things that kept her getting out of bed every morning. Her firestarting abilities had caused nothing but pain to the people in her life, failing her at every turn. She hoped and prayed that the steeling cold blade of a sword would forge within her the strength, physical and mental, that she would need to face the adversaries she must defeat. But as surely as she sought a win in this matchup, she found her weapon twisting in her palm a second before it crashed to the ground.
With discouragement, she watched as Rock, one of the Knights of White, walked to the rack on the wall and slid his sword into place. “Enough for today.”
Mumbling her frustration, Kresley ripped off the face mask she wore, the one Rock and the other Knights at Jaguar Ranch insisted she wear because she was human.
“It’s not enough,” she argued. “How can it be when you beat me that easily?”
He shoved his hands against denim-clad hips. “You’ve been here a month. And training less than that. You’re doing well, Kresley. It’ll come with time.”
Kresley watched as he cut his gaze, recognizing his discomfort. “You’re afraid I’m too tired,” she accused. “That I’ll lose control of my firestarting ability.” She grimaced. “That doesn’t happen anymore. The injections I take completely solved that problem.”
Rock grinned, but it was fake; Kresley could sense his unease, feel it in the flutter of her stomach. He held his hands out to his sides, continuing his facade of nonchalant ease. “Do I look like I am worried about a little fire? I'd welcome a chance to have Marisol heal me, anytime.”
She knew all-too-well that Rock had a crush on the Knights' Healer, Marisol, but she also knew fire was one of the only things that killed Knights. As much as she dearly loved her doctor, Kresley hated that Laura had warned the Knights about her past limitations. Hated that, even here, among immortals, she was feared.
“Please, Rock,” she whispered. “I need this practice. I have to try and make things right. I have to try and save Lucan. I can’t let him sacrifice himself for me. I can’t give up on him.”
Emotion flooded Rock’s features. “I knew that’s what you were planning. But you can’t save him, Kresley. When a Knight willingly turns to the Underworld, there’s no turning back.” He hesitated, his voice gravely as he added, “He can’t be saved. He traded himself for you.”
She dropped the mask on the floor. “That’s not true. I know it's not. I’ll talk to Jag.” Surely, their leader would have answers that Rock did not.
“I have,” he said, his voice low, strained. “We all have. If Lucan could be saved, we would have already gone after him.” He ground his teeth. “He wanted to protect you. It is the duty of a Knight to protect the innocent.
He simply went about it the wrong way.”
Her fists balled by her sides, her chest tight with emotion. She refused to believe that anyone was destined to hell because of her. “You might choose to give up on him, but I won’t,” she said, low, terse, anger barely contained as she turned on her heels and stormed toward the door.
With fast steps, she found the door and blasted past the exit. The hot Texas sun traced her path down the stairs. She kept walking, riding the wave of adrenaline, the wave of emotion. As she distanced herself from the training facility, her mind replayed all the painful truths. Kresley Ward, firestarter, outcast. She’d been those things all her life. Inescapably different, inescapably the cause of pain for others.
How long she walked, how far she walked, she did not know. She knew only that she needed to keep going, needed a place to funnel the adrenaline pumping through her body. Needed an escape, a place to hide, if only for a while. When finally the ranch was nowhere in sight, and her legs were tiring, Kresley claimed a spot under a weeping willow tree and leaned against the thick base of its trunk, drawing her knees to her chest as she surveyed the fading green pastures before her.
Even here at the ranch, amongst immortal Demon hunters, she was different, she was alone. But then, how could she not be? She’d caused the loss of one of their own. They might not say they blamed her, but they didn’t have to. She knew. She knew all too well. And no one wanted to undo that loss more than she did.
Emotion welled inside her as a breeze lifted the long, red strands of her hair from her neck, a welcome relief from the scorching hot summer. But Kresley knew there was no relief in store for her unless she took action to right the wrong of what had occurred.
She thought of Lucan and what he must be going through, shuddering as she remembered her own experiences in the snake pits that those underworld Demons guarded. Remembered the torture that she had endured—painful hallucinations of the slimy creatures crawling all over her, the utter loss of mental control. Until she almost lost her mind. Was that to be Lucan’s existence? How could she wish that on another? Her chest tightened, burned. She couldn’t allow him to suffer so because of her. She had to find Lucan, to trade herself for him. Resolve formed. She had to prepare, to be sure she didn’t let anything go wrong. She would study the ways of the Underworld, train to face it in every possible way she could. And then she would go after Lucan. If the Knights would help her, all the better. But with or without them, she was doing this. Because she couldn’t live with the pain of knowing that a Knight of White, a soldier who protected humanity, was lost in hell because of her. She had to make this right. She would make this right.
Jag orbed to a distant hill overlooking Kresley’s location, her future weighing heavily on his mind. As Leader of the Knights of White, he had a responsibility to protect his men, but he could not make their choices for them. He could not form the destinies that only they could seek for themselves. Nor could he choose Kresley’s path, for it was her own.
Beside him, Salvador, his mentor, appeared. The jeans and T-shirt he wore to blend in with his surroundings did nothing to erase the ethereal power of his presence. He represented the earthly link that the Knights maintained with the Archangel Raphael; he only appeared when there was a lesson to be learned, or a battle to be fought.
“I can’t let her go after him,” Jag stated, quite certain of the truth in his words, quite concerned about the implications. “Her firestarting would be dangerous in the hands of the underworld.”
Salvador crossed his arms in front of his chest and stared across the expanse of land to Kresley’s position. “And lethal to our enemies if used against them,” he said simply. "But how can she ever stand against our enemies if she does not trust herself?”
Jag couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Are you actually suggesting I let her go after him?”
“I’m simply saying that if she wants to go after him, she will find a way, with or without, your approval.”
He shook his head, thinking of their recent mission to rescue Kresley and others with special gifts. “I don’t want to lose her, too,” Jag said, tormented by the way they’d lost Lucan, frustrated that Lucan had given up so easily.
“Look at it this way,” Salvador suggested. “If she is brave enough to fight the Underworld for a man she considers a virtual stranger, what other greatness might be in her?”
Jag narrowed his gaze on his mentor. He’d come to know there were no straight answers from Salvador. Perhaps because there were no straight paths to life. There were choices. He could only hope one of the choices in Kresley’s future allowed for what appeared impossible – Lucan’s return.
But then, like Salvador’s answers to questions, he’d learned, nothing was ever quite what it seemed to be.
One year later
Evil crackled in the air of the underground Manhattan nightclub, loud music pounding against the walls, a sultry beat flavoring the tune with seduction. A flavor that had become all too familiar to Kresley, if not in this locale, then in another – in places where Demons used sex to lure innocent humans beneath a veil of darkness. A world she despised, but could not escape. For this was the world where she could find the answers she sought, the answers the Knights would sprinkle with hope rather than reality. She was done with hope. She’d settle for nothing less than absolution and that meant finding Lucan. That meant proving she could stand with the fires of hell and survive.
Heart racing, Kresley worked her way through the club, seeking the path of least resistance to cross the crowded dance floor, seeing no option but straight down the middle, through the fray of one licentious embrace after another. But she didn’t hesitate, as she would have not so long ago. Someone shoved her – she still kept going, driven toward her goal of finding Lucan. And he was here. She could feel it in her bones. After a year of looking, she’d found him. Just a little farther. A few more steps.