Read Refuge Online

Authors: Karen Lynch

Tags: #romance, #vampires, #urban fantasy, #fantasy, #paranormal, #young adult, #werewolves, #teen, #vampire hunters, #teen series

Refuge

Refuge
Karen Lynch

Copyright @ 2014 Karen A Lynch

Smashwords Edition

 

All Rights Reserved

 

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

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Disclaimer: The persons, places, things mentioned in
this novel are figments of the author’s imagination. Any
resemblance to anything or anyone living (or dead) is
unintentional.

 

Cover Designer: Nikos Lima

To my mother, Margaret, and to the
memory of my father, Sandy, for giving me a home filled with love
and for empowering me to chase my dreams.
Chapter 1

 

I FELT IT coming even before he slammed into
me and sent me flying back a dozen feet to land in a heap against
the wall. “Ow.” Little pinpoints of light floated before my eyes,
and I tasted blood in my mouth where I’d bitten the inside of my
cheek. That pain was nothing compared to the bone-deep aches all
over my body. God, how much punishment could a body take?

A shadow fell across my face. “Is anything
broken?” asked a gruff Scottish voice that rang more of impatience
than concern.

I rolled onto my back and stretched my sore
limbs to test them for injuries, grunting when my shoulder made a
small pop. Satisfied that my body was still in one piece, even if
it was as bruised as a ripe peach, I peered up at the dark-haired
man standing over me with his feet planted apart and his hands on
his hips. “I’ll survive,” I muttered, not sure if I was happy about
it.

He extended a hand, and I took it
reluctantly, letting him pull me to my feet. When he let go of me,
I leaned against the wall as the training room did a little spin
before my eyes. I didn’t need to see straight to know that my
painful flight had been witnessed by Terrence and Josh – the two
other trainees in the room who were watching us while pretending to
focus on their own workouts. I couldn’t blame them. My daily
training sessions were something of a spectacle, like a pileup on
the highway that you can’t help but slow down to watch.

Callum crossed his arms over his wide chest
and fixed me with a reproachful stare. Solid muscle and taller than
me by almost a foot, he was my penance for every one of my past
screw-ups. At least that was what I told myself every day when I
lowered my freshly bruised body into the healing bath. How I ever
thought it would be fun to train with the smiling warrior with the
sexy ponytail and chocolate-brown eyes was beyond me. It took less
than five minutes of our first session for me to discover the
scourge hiding behind that pretty smile.

“You are still not working with your Mori,
and you will never be able to fight or defend yourself unless you
open to it. Remember, without that demon inside you, you’re only
human and just as helpless as one.”

Not quite human.
Not that Callum or anyone else in
this place would know that. Only a handful of people knew my
secret, and they were all far away from here.

I rolled my shoulders to work out a kink. “I
know what you told me. I’m just not sure how to do it. Maybe my
demon is defective.”

His scowl deepened. “Your demon is not
defective, and this is nothing to joke about. How do you expect to
become a warrior if you cannot fight?”

“Maybe I don’t want to be a warrior.”

Callum barked a laugh. “You attract a lot of
trouble for someone who doesn’t want to be a warrior.” I blinked in
surprise, and he shook his head. “Oh, I’ve heard of your little
adventures, and how you kept a whole unit – not to mention two of
our best warriors – running around Maine for the better part of a
month.”

His remarks conjured an image of a
dark-haired warrior with smoldering gray eyes. I brushed it away
angrily. “They were there because of the vampires, not me, and they
could have left whenever they wanted. In fact, I told them to leave
more than once.”

“So I’ve heard.” Was that actual amusement I
saw in his eyes? “There are not many people who would challenge
Nikolas Danshov. I expected more from someone who did.”

He was baiting me, and I refused to bite.
“Sorry to disappoint you. Maybe you should find another trainee who
will meet your expectations.”

I got three steps away before he growled,
“Where do you think you’re going? We are not done with this lesson,
and you leave when I say you leave. Now assume your position.”

So much for pleasantries.
I adjusted my padded vest
and went to the area he had marked off for us. There was a painful
twinge in my lower back and my butt was already protesting the
punishment that was sure to follow, but I pushed the pain aside and
turned to face my trainer. I might suck as a fighter, but I still
had my pride and I’d see this through if it killed me.

Callum, however, was not where I expected him
to be. I looked around and found him by the door talking to two men
and a woman I had not seen before. The woman was tall and beautiful
in a knee-length red dress, with flawless skin and long, straight
black hair. I could not help but notice that the boys had stopped
pretending to train and were ogling her. She seemed not to notice
them as her emerald eyes found me and her nose wrinkled delicately.
I almost laughed because I could only imagine how I looked and
smelled after two hours with Callum.

My attention shifted to the men with her.
They were both tall like all Mohiri males but very different in
appearance. One had a plain face with curly brown hair and tanned
skin. The second man had long blond hair pulled back in a ponytail
that suited his finely sculptured face. His blue eyes swept the
room as he listened to whatever Callum said to him, and they lit on
me briefly before returning to my trainer. The man’s commanding air
and the way the other trainees had perked up told me he was someone
important. This place was a hive of activity with warriors coming
and going almost daily, so it was impossible to know everyone. But
I was obviously the only person in the room who did not recognize
the blond stranger.

Callum smiled at the man and turned back to
me with his training face on again. I expected the newcomers to
leave, but they leaned against the wall like they were planning to
stay and watch. Great. All I needed today was more people watching
me get my butt handed to me.

I watched Callum warily as he moved to a spot
ten feet from me and faced me with the calculating gleam in his
eyes that I had come to dread. “Open yourself to your Mori, Sara.
Feel its power, and let it guide you. Its survival instincts are
strong, and it wants nothing more than to protect you. Without you,
it cannot exist.”

Do you hear that?
I said to the beast crouched
sullenly in the back of my mind.
You need me a lot more than I
need you, so you’d better behave.
I forced my mind to block out
everyone else in the room and focus only on Callum’s face. His eyes
always gave him away a split second before he made his move, not
that knowing when he was about to strike had ever helped me. I
lowered the wall holding back the demon, feeling it flutter with
excitement as its cage opened. At the same time, I reached for the
glowing power at my center and pulled back a thread to wield if the
need arose. The demon was strong, but it was no match for my Fae
power and we both knew it.

My Mori and I saw Callum’s eyes flicker at
the same time, but the demon reacted first. It rushed forward in an
attempt to fill my mind and make my body obey its commands. For a
second, I allowed it – before the old memory surfaced. I could
still feel the scorching heat of the demon beneath my skin, and the
helplessness of floating in the vastness of the demon’s mind.

My walls shot back up a split second before
Callum plowed into me and sent me soaring backward again. This
time, instead of colliding with the wall, I found myself snatched
from the air and pulled against a hard chest.

“I think our little bird has had enough
flying for today, Callum.” Laughter rumbled through the chest of
the man holding me before he set me on my feet. Embarrassed, I
looked up into the sapphire eyes of the blond stranger, but there
was no mockery in his expression. If anything, his smile was kind,
indulgent.

“I think you are right,” Callum agreed,
looking at me. “No less than thirty minutes in the baths, Sara, and
take some gunna paste.” I made a face, and his expression grew
stern. It was no secret that I would rather suffer a few aches than
eat the awful putty-like medicine. “If I see you limping at dinner
again, I will hold you down and feed it to you myself.”

I nodded reluctantly because I knew he would
follow through with his threat. Mumbling a good-bye to the
newcomers, I hurried to the equipment room to shed my padded armor.
Then I escaped the training area before Callum decided to feed me
the nasty gunna paste himself, like he’d done on my second day of
training.

The dark paneled hall in the training wing
was quiet except for the muffled sounds of combat coming from
behind the closed doors. Mohiri warriors spent a lot of time
training when they weren’t out saving the world. The stronghold
housed between thirty and forty warriors on a given day – not
including the teams that came and went – so the training rooms were
always busy this time of day.

I pushed open the heavy door to the women’s
baths, relieved when I saw the empty chamber. Mohiri women were not
timid or self-conscious, and they thought nothing of stripping down
in front of each other, something I was still getting used to. If I
was lucky I could get in and out of the bath before the room got
too busy.

The first thing I did was go to a cabinet in
the wall and retrieve a can of gunna paste. Scooping out some of
the green paste with my finger, I grimaced and put it in my mouth.
Within seconds, a dry, bitter taste coated my tongue and every
corner of my mouth, and I had to force myself to swallow the paste
instead of spitting it out. Even after the paste had gone down, the
foul taste lingered, and I knew it would take at least another five
minutes for it to go away. I silently cursed Callum as I did every
day after training. It didn’t change things, but it made me feel a
little better.

Stripping off my sweaty clothes, I immersed
my body in the nearest of the six rectangular tubs sunken into the
tiled floor. The hot cloudy liquid bubbled gently, and I moaned in
sheer bliss as it began to soothe my aches and pains. I didn’t know
what was in the water; just that it came from a deep underground
spring that fed into massive tanks somewhere under the building.
There, it was treated with special salts and purifiers and piped
into the healing baths in a constant flow. That was as much as I
cared to know about it, other than the fact that it did wonders for
the body if you stayed in it long enough.

I closed my eyes and tried to relax and not
think about my abysmal training session, or the dozen other
negative thoughts that often plagued me in the week and a half I’d
been here.
It’s not
as if you expected it to be like home.
I just had to give it
some time, to get used to the people and my surroundings. I had
never been comfortable getting to know people, and making new
friends didn’t come as easily to me as it did to Roland and Peter.
A wry smile touched my lips. One more thing I had to work on.

When my thirty minutes were up, I climbed out
of the tub to stand beneath the shower. Cleaned, dried, and dressed
in a fresh pair of drawstring pants and T-shirt, I left the bath
chamber and headed to my suite on the third floor of the north
wing. Westhorne was a Mohiri military stronghold, but there were no
barracks here. My suite was almost as big as my loft back home,
with a much larger bathroom and a small combined living room and
kitchenette. The furnishings were richer than I was used to, but I
did love the antique four-poster bed. And the fireplace would come
in handy if the winters in Idaho were anything like I’d been
told.

I opened the window and took a deep breath of
fresh air. The view outside my window was so different from the one
I’d grown up with. I missed the ocean, but there was something
about snowcapped mountains that made my breath catch every time I
saw them.

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