Authors: Kylie Griffin
“Who are you?”
“My name is Annika.”
In the flickering torchlight, long, thick, honey-colored hair fell to her waist, a veil over her face and shoulders, shielding her from his gaze as she knelt to one side of him. A pale, flowing dress clothed her slender form, but she was all woman: rounded breasts, a narrow waist, and curved hips. She was everything he’d imagined a Handmaiden of the
Delicate, graceful hands untied a pouch and removed several jars and pots. They gave no clue as to the identity of the woman, but the clean, fresh scent of herbs and oils told him she was a healer.
“You waste your time.” The Light Blade warrior’s voice was hoarse. He tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry. “I thank you for your concern but there’s little you can do for me that won’t be undone by ’morrow-eve. Save your salves and potions for another who would benefit from them more.”
The woman raised her head, a gentle smile curving her lips. All pleasure fled as his gaze met hers.
she had demon eyes…
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2012 by Kylie Griffin.
Cover illustration by Gene Mollica.
Cover design by Lesley Worrell.
Interior text design by Kristin del Rosario.
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Berkley Sensation trade paperback edition / February 2012
Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Vengeance born / Kylie Griffin.—Berkley Sensation trade paperback ed.
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
To Mum, Dad, and Michelle,
you put up with my obsession for all things paranormal
and supported me as I pursued my passion and dreams.
I love you.
To my editor, Leis Pederson, whose belief in this story changed my life. To my agent, Elaine Spencer, for your enthusiasm for my work, patience, and sharing of knowledge.
To Mrs. Wendy Jackson and Miss Julie Simmington, two wonderful high school English teachers, who encouraged a novice writer to pursue her passion.
To Robyn and Darryl, Michelle, Dee, Gracie, and Jem, and the local post office staff—for making sure I remembered to eat, for all the visits/emails and long phone calls, and for not hiding behind the shop counter when you saw me coming with yet another load of manuscripts.
To the BILDers—my support group, shoulder to cry on, cheerleaders, wielders of ugly-sticks, and sisters in madcap mayhem. What an amazing group of writers!
To Valerie Parv, incredible mentor, wonderfully generous lady, and fountain of knowledge—your prediction came true!
To three amazing writing organizations—Romance Writers of Australia, Romance Writers of New Zealand, Romance Writers of America: You’ve given me knowledge, professional support, and lifelong friendships.
And last, but not least, to all contest judges and readers, thank you for your feedback and encouragement. I listened, I learned, and you helped me achieve my dream.
You have all encouraged, guided, and pushed me to reach this milestone. I couldn’t have done it without you. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
Table of Contents
NNIKA hated visiting the dungeons. The dank cells reeked of pain and fear as well as blood. Anyone unfortunate enough to be imprisoned here risked dying of exposure if the torture inflicted by the
guards didn’t claim them first.
“This had better be worth it, Hesia,” she muttered and tugged the skirts of her dress away from slime-covered walls.
The furious squeaking she heard coming from a shadowed corner made her glad she was wearing her knee-high boots. Bare feet—or any naked skin, for that matter—were fair game to the scurriers scavenging down here. She’d treated many prisoners for bites and wounds caused by the vicious little carnivores. A draft of air brought with it the stench of unwashed bodies, which almost overpowered her. She coughed and lifted a sleeve to cover her nose.
“You know none of the others will come down here.” The old healer’s tone held censure for her surliness.
If Annika were honest, the physical conditions of the dungeon weren’t the real reason for her reluctance. It was the mumbling voices of prisoners: some babbled, driven mad by circumstance, some cried piteously, others wailed in despair. The sound of their helplessness was heartbreaking and she could do little but try to ease their pain.
Hesia shot her an arch look. “’Sides, you’re the only one the demons will let into the Pit.”
Her face heated. Her half-blood status was a boon and a curse. While even the lowest caste of the
outranked her, their fear of her father was the only thing stopping the guards from refusing her access.
“Who’s imprisoned there now?” she asked.
“Rumor has it that
scouts captured a warrior during a slave raid in the Outer Provinces.” A thread of excitement colored the old woman’s voice. “He refuses even to give his name.”
Hope fired deep inside her and she glanced sharply at Hesia. “A Light Blade?”
Annika bit her lip as hope surged from deep within her.
, this could be the opportunity she’d been waiting for, the chance to escape.
Hesia’s wrinkled face peered up at her, her blue eyes somber. “He was the only survivor. You know what the
do with any warriors they capture.”
Annika clenched her fists, empathy quickly replacing her hope. As a child she’d been forced to watch the
kill human warriors many, many times. Her heart went out to the survivor.
Hesia’s steps slowed then faltered as they neared the Pit. She turned and gripped her forearm with gnarled fingers. “Be careful, Annika,
Tal is on duty.”
Despite the flash of anger that warmed her cheeks, the warning sent a shiver of fear along her spine. “I thought that lower-caste scum had been relieved,” she whispered.
The last time she’d treated prisoners in the dungeon, he’d locked her in a cell without Hesia, then told the prisoners who she was. If it hadn’t been for another guard interceding she’d have suffered far worse than a few bruises and a head wound.