As the powers of darkness and light collide, a soul with no redemption must rely on love to restore the balance.
Keenan was a mistake. An abomination feared by the very being who had sired him for the potent powers of light and dark in his soul. He was tortured for years until he managed to escape the God of Destruction, his father, Roh Se Kahn, only to be imprisoned again and held captive in a war he had no ties to.
King of the Vam’kir, an ancient race who survives on the life-giving blood of humans, Rowan is struggling to enforce the peace treaty signed by his kind and their twin race, the shapeshifting Ba’Kal. After two millennia, their war has finally come to an end, though their alliance is tentative.
Trapped in a loveless marriage, Rowan yearns for happiness he fears may never come. On an expedition to rescue the last of the prisoners held over from the war, he finds Keenan, the mate he’d been searching for his entire life. But their path is lined with impossible obstacles.
Rowan’s people would never accept the bastard son of the dark God at his side, and the threat of Roh Se Kahn brings a new war into their midst.
Will their love for each other be enough to conquer the hatred of Rowan’s people and destroy the dark forces of the God of Destruction?
Reader Advisory: This books contains scenes of violence and references to rape.
General Release Date: 8th September 2015
Sweat trickled into Rowan’s eyes and plastered his short hair to his forehead. He wiped at it with his arm then firmed his grip on the sword. Every muscle in his body burned from fatigue, yet the adrenaline pumping through his veins kept him going. Although the sword had been made for him, perfectly balanced and honed, it felt like a lead weight in his hands at this point. The hours of combat he’d been engaged in were beginning to take their toll.
And he loved every minute of it.
It had been too long since he’d done this. Taken time away from the endless days and months of conferences, political treaties and mediations his new role as king required. This was what he wanted to do. Train as the warrior he was to battle those who might threaten his kind. Not sit behind a desk and take advice from a council he no longer respected.
He circled his opponent slowly, balancing on the balls of his feet as he watched for clues to anticipate the next attack. It came swiftly and he barely had time to dodge the blade that flew over his head. Several more strikes came in a rapid barrage and he parried each one, reveling in the clashing song of steel on steel.
Tailor was good. One of the best he’d ever gone up against. His style of sword fighting was just different enough to present a challenge Rowan hadn’t had since his first years of training.
When Tailor extended his thrust a little too far, Rowan twisted behind him then raised his elbow for a back jab, only to fall onto his side when his feet were kicked out from under him.
Tailor grinned widely and aimed the tip of his sword at Rowan’s neck. “I think all that power you hold has dulled your reflexes, king. Or perhaps it’s just old age.”
Rowan snorted, rolled away then jumped to his feet. “This coming from the man who has ten years on me.” He charged Tailor in a flurry, backing him steadily to the far wall.
“That’s ten years of pure skill kicking your ass,” Tailor said between pants. He countered each of Rowan’s moves with a fluid grace one wouldn’t expect from looking at him. With his shoulder-length tawny hair, blue eyes and tanned skin, one could easily picture him standing on the shore of some beach with a surf board under one arm. Add to that his perpetual carefree attitude and it was hard to imagine he was a Ketai, guardian of the Jaes’din. Only his muscular build and six feet three inches of height, which matched Rowan’s, hinted at the fact that he was one of the deadliest men of his kind.
They danced around each other, trading blow for blow with their weapons for several more minutes. Rowan knew they could go at it all night. As much as he enjoyed this, however, he had obligations waiting for him in the morning. As soon as he saw an opening, he put on a burst of preternatural speed and shot behind his opponent. By the time Tailor spun around, Rowan had his blade raised and brought it down in a sweeping arc strong enough to knock the sword from Tailor’s hands. It clattered across the floor only to stop when it hit the wall of mirrors on their left.
Tailor gaped at him indignantly. “That’s cheating! We agreed not to use our gifts.”
“Sorry. Must’ve forgotten—what with old age and all,” Rowan replied with a smirk.
In the next instant, Tailor’s body was enveloped in a bronze haze that shimmered brightly. The lines of his long form became blurred as alteration from man to hawk was over before Rowan could blink. Tailor flew at him in his new form, making Rowan flinch from the wings beating at his face. The hawk circled him then sped toward the mirrors. When Rowan realized the shifter’s goal, he raced to the fallen sword but was too late.
Tailor was already there, back in his human form with weapon in hand. He advanced before Rowan could get his guard up and stepped in close. Their blades came together and hilts locked. With an aggressive twist, Tailor yanked the sword from Rowan’s hands then, once again, aimed the tip of his blade at Rowan’s neck.
Rowan held up his hands in defeat and laughed. “All right, I give in. You win.”
When it came to the skill of shifting shape, Tailor was by far the superior. He had years of experience on Rowan, being born a purebred Ba’Kal—a shapeshifter gifted with the spirit of an animal. Upon his maturity, when his spirit’s soul had fully melded with his own, Tailor had learned to become the hawk that existed inside him. As a man with no highborn blood in him, it was all he had ever known.
Rowan, on the other hand, had been altered in a way he still found frustrating. Born and raised Vam’kir, his natural talents had lain only in speed and strength through the ingestion of blood up until two years ago when he had evolved to Bassen’kir. A change which had made him a combination of both races, granting him the ability to shapeshift as well.
All the highborns of the Ba’Kal and Vam’kir had gone through this transformation, and the adjustment was difficult for everyone, to say the least. It was also one of the reasons why Tailor had left his home in the United States to visit Rowan in France. Rowan’s new spirit was a raven and, despite his power as Magnique, king of the Vam’kir, he was the first to concede that learning to fly was probably the hardest thing he’d ever done. Tailor had been teaching him for the past six months and still, he possessed nowhere near the finesse it took to shift quickly, clothes and all, and take flight in mid-air as Tailor had.
Tailor picked up Rowan’s sword and handed it to him, hilt first. “Those are words I never get tired of hearing. I take it you’re done for the night?”
“Yeah. The council has called a meeting in the morning to discuss negotiations for the import and export of trade goods between your kind and mine.” They sheathed their swords and returned them to the racks hanging on one of the walls.
Tailor frowned as he grabbed two towels from a cabinet and tossed one to Rowan. “Do you need me there?”
Rowan shook his head then wiped the sweat from his brow. “No. It’s just preliminary at this point. I’ll notify Manning when we have a solid plan to propose. Besides, I know you’re anxious to get back to your forests.”
A broad smile stretched Tailor’s lips as he wrapped the towel around the back of his neck then held out his arms for a hug. “You’re gonna miss me. Come on. Show me the love.”
Rowan curled his lip in mock disgust. “I think you’ve gotten enough love from every unmated female in my employ. I’m surprised one of their father’s hasn’t come after you with a machete by now.” He began walking to the benches with Tailor at his side.
“I’m smarter than that. I told all the ladies I was dying and that you would take any personal kindness to me as a sign of loyalty.”
Disbelief made Rowan stop in his tracks until he saw the humor glinting in Tailor’s eyes. “Bastard.”
All joking aside, though, he really was going to miss the man. As Ketai, Tailor’s only true fealty belonged to Manning, his Jaes’din and the ruler of his kind. When Rowan had told Manning of his struggle to convince the Vam’kir council to accept the alliance between their races half a year ago, Tailor had shown up on his doorstep the next day, offering his support in cementing that alliance. Ever since, Tailor had been at his side, providing ideas and logic to back the statutes of their truce.
Rowan had only held his position as Magnique for the past two years and his power was still tentative. His people remained furious at the fact that with the rebirth of the Bassen’kir, they were forced to accept the Ba’Kal as their brethren, a race they’d been at war with for two millennia since the Bassen’kir had ceased to exist. Many of them saw it as a threat to their cultural independence and way of life. They rejected the prospect of uniting forces.
Many considered it a betrayal on the part of their Goddess, Miel Se Luuda. She was the one who had provided the means for the resurgence of the Bassen’kir without bothering to consider the consequences. Two years ago when Rowan had tried to argue that the consequences were in their favor, he’d nearly been unseated from his throne. The Vam’kir clans had been ready to revolt, and the council had prepared to exile the Magnique for the first time in Vam’kir history. Nothing Rowan did could appease them.
Then Tailor had shown up and somehow managed to convince the council to stand down. His willingness to enter the heart of enemy territory and stand by Rowan’s side—despite their differences—had proven that a union could be advantageous.
Rowan felt a smile grow as he recalled Tailor’s initial words to the Vam’kir council when they’d tried to argue their reasons for rejecting the alliance.
“Are your asses jealous of the shit coming out of your mouths? Miel Se Luuda, the Goddess we both worship, has finally succeeded in bringing back her beloved race, the Bassen’kir, and you’re renouncing her efforts? You think this is any easier on the Ba’Kal? You think we want to welcome you with open arms? Don’t flatter yourselves. We hate this just as much as you do, but at least we’re willing to accept the wishes of the Goddess and give this truce a shot. If none of you are, then you don’t deserve to call yourselves her children.”
That had shut the council up faster than any of the arguments Rowan had tried and failed with. The Vam’kir highborns made Bassen’kir had yielded to the understanding that this was just as hard on the highborns of the Ba’Kal as it was on them, and had consented to the terms of the truce. After that, it had only been a matter of working out the laws defining their alliance.
Rowan’s position as Magnique was now secure and Tailor’s influence no longer required. His flight back to the United States was scheduled for tomorrow at noon and all Rowan could think of was that he would be losing one of the two true friends he had.
The other was sitting on one of the benches next to the door, dressed in black leathers with a reserved expression. Hael was Rowan’s Meraan, the equivalent of a Ketai—his protector and best friend. They’d met as children when Rowan had caught him scrounging for food in the garbage bins behind a restaurant in the nearby town of Florac. From the beginning, Hael hadn’t shown the slightest bit of intimidation by Rowan’s status as prince, and that alone had made him invaluable. Rowan had begged his father to take in the orphan and they’d been friends from that day on.
By right of inheritance, Rowan should have taken command of the three Meraans his father had previously enlisted for himself, but he had chosen to employ them in other fields. Their allegiance was to their old king, and since Rowan had been the one to assassinate his father, he didn’t trust them at his back. Although Hael wasn’t Bassen’kir and had more right than most to hate the Ba’Kal, he, like Tailor, had put aside his differences to accept the will of the Goddess.
However, that hadn’t improved his attitude. The man never laughed, hardly smiled and spoke only when necessary. If Tailor was deterred by this in any way, though, he hadn’t shown it yet.