Read an Excerpt
Claimed by Light
A Bound by Hades Novel
By Reese Monroe, Karen Grove Nicole Steinhaus
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2014 Reese Monroe
All rights reserved.
Halena Girard melted into the long shadows of the building and crept through the alley, stalking her prey.
The demon's wide shoulders stiffened, and he slowed. Tilting his head back, he sniffed the air but didn't turn around.
And here she thought she'd been sneaky.
His footfalls echoed against the century-old brick walls that made up every building in this small French village.
Cool fresh air and the rush of the hunt were exactly what she needed. Immortality had been lonely after losing her Companion, Dru, all those centuries ago, and since Theo and his family returned to the States, her compound echoed with silence.
But as a Gatekeeper, charged with guarding the gates of Hades, she had a job to do, and slaying this demon tonight would serve two purposes: one, vengeance for Dru's death; two, a distraction from another thing plaguing her — her Mate.
After watching Theo and Justin find theirs, the reality of her possibly getting mated haunted her dreams every night. The mere thought of connecting with someone on that level — No!
It couldn't happen. She couldn't chance getting close to anyone again. She'd never survive it if they were taken from her.
Like Dru was.
The demon ducked into a doorway in the building up ahead, more than likely waiting for her.
Time to have a little fun.
She shoved her Mavet dagger into its holster and took a deep, cleansing breath to clear her thoughts. Reaching into her low-cut shirt, she positioned her best assets a little higher as she moved onward.
Even demons got distracted by boobs. She let out a gasp and stumbled, pretending she was drunk. He'd think her easy prey. After eight hundred years vanquishing these creatures hundreds of different ways, teasing them was the most fun.
They were horny buggers, so a little tease followed by a Mavet dagger to the chest ... Didn't get any better than that.
Palming the cool brick, she giggled. "Whew."
"May I be of assistance?" The tall, dark-haired demon she'd been tailing stepped out from the doorway. His eyes flashed orange.
She'd sensed he was a strong one when she felt him come through the splice from Hades to Earth. First, he had to be to have the power needed to rip a splice open, and second, his eyes flashed orange. That meant he was powerful.
This is going to be fun.
"Ohhh." Halena clutched her chest. "You scared me." She faked a hiccup. "I — well — am a bit turned around."
"And a little tipsy, I believe, ma chérie."
My sweet. Ugh, what a slimy demon, but evidently she was masking her Gatekeeper heritage enough because he didn't appear to realize what she was.
Stumbling toward him, Halena laughed. "I'd do just about anything to find my car."
He strode to her, eyes piercing, dark brows raised. "Anything?"
Of course that would get his attention. He needed souls, and she'd shown him an easy target. Drunk, vulnerable, lusty. She bit back a laugh at the irony.
Here was a demon that wanted her — no, needed her to survive. Sure, it was sick because he was after her body and soul, but it sure was nice being wanted.
The only two men she'd ever considered being with for more than a fling had gone and found their Mates. It made the whole idea of the sacred Ahavah Marks that surfaced on the human chosen for Shomrei warriors that much more of a slap in her face.
Mates may be part of The Great One's master plan, but the fact that she could, at any second, feel the Mark surface on her chosen human scared the shit out of her.
She playfully swatted at the demon. "Well, just about anything."
And right now she'd do just about anything to distract herself from the stark reality — first Theo, then Justin, were shown their Mates, and she was destined to get one, too. She would be forced to face that intense emotional, physical, and spiritual connection with someone. She didn't have a choice.
Theo, the eldest Gatekeeper in existence, had always wanted a Mate — he swore off women for his entire 900-year existence until he found her. Justin, his Companion, shared Halena's view of Mates and emotional connection ... until Yvonne received his Ahavah Mark.
Justin, of all people ...
Halena shook her head and smiled at her target.
He offered her his hand. "I think I might be able to help you." He grinned, and his white teeth nearly glowed.
A chill crept up her arm and tingled the base of her neck as she slid her hand into his.
His fangs dropped, and he spun her until she felt the jagged brick digging into her back.
That was more like it.
Adrenaline surged through her veins, and the addictive energy prickled her skin as she embraced the rush. The Shomrei warrior deep inside her surfaced with a roar. She hiked her knee, then slammed her palm into his chin.
She buried her elbow in his neck. Bones cracked beneath her assault, but the sound was music to her ears. Yes, this was more like it.
With each punch, she beat back at the loneliness and memories weighing heavy on her shoulders.
Spinning away from him, she kicked her foot into his gut. His skull smashed against the unrelenting brick wall with a thud.
More music to her ears. The Great One had breathed her, and all Gatekeepers, into life for this very reason. And it was time to get this song jamming.
Roaring, the demon turned so fast his fist connected with her cheek before she could get her arm up to deflect. The force sent her crashing into the wall behind her. Ribs cracked, and her lungs seized.
"Shomrei." He stomped toward her. "I knew it."
She keeled over, holding her stomach as she reached for her Mavet dagger with her free hand.
"Pesky. Annoying. Plans-ruining Shomrei Gatekeepers." He swung again, but Halena ducked as she held out her dagger.
The sleek, magical metal pierced his forearm. She could have ended this demon by saying the vanquish while the blade penetrated his skin, but she wasn't quite ready to send him packing to Hades for eternity.
There was more fun to be had.
His bellow ricocheted off the stone, and she pushed off the wall.
"Ohh. That's got to hurt."
Striking like a rattler, he slashed his fingernails across her face. "You'll have to do better than that, Gatekeeper."
Warmth spilled over her skin, followed by a fiery sting along her neck. Damn poison talons. His fingers curled around her throat and squeezed.
Sure, he couldn't kill her — nobody could until she was mated — but choking and lack of air didn't feel too good.
"Thought I caught a whiff of that angelic stink on you." He chuckled. "Nice distraction with the boobs and drunkenness. I'll give you that."
"Got to keep things interesting, right?" She clapped her hands over the demon's ears, then rammed her elbow into his. His grip loosened, and she slid down the brick, which wasn't an entirely painless process.
Then again, a little battle mixed in with some pain added to the rush of the kill.
She whipped out her other Mavet dagger and stabbed his thigh. The creature froze, as they always do with the blade wedged in their body.
"Hurts, doesn't it?" She could toy with him all she wanted when he was paralyzed like this. Tempting ...
"I'll ... see you ... again." The demon grinned. "Gatekeeper."
Actually, he wouldn't. Her Mavet was a one-way ticket to Hades. And it was time to send him there.
She leaned in, staring at his vacant, evil eyes, and said the vanquish, "Reverto ut Abyssus."
With an echoing roar, he vanished with a loud pop and a puff of dust.
She lurched forward as his body disappeared and planted her fists against the wall, drawing in deep breaths of the cool, winter air. The pulse thrumming through her head, tapping out a high-octane drum solo, simmered. Closing her eyes, she rested her forehead against the brick.
For you, Dru.
* * *
"You suck at quarters." Bryce pointed at the shot glass in front of Slade Bennet. "Drink up, dumbass."
"Bite me." Slade slammed the shot.
The liquid scorched its way down his throat, and he bit back a grimace. A stream of his buddies stormed into the kitchen, whooping Slade's name like a chant. It might have been the buzz he was sporting, but he couldn't hold back a laugh. More, it was a sigh of relief. School was almost done.
He'd made it.
"To Slade!" Bryce held up his plastic cup of beer, while his buddies did the same. "You may suck at quarters, but you survived two years at Hellsville Community College, so maybe you're not a dumbass after all."
Slade punched his shoulder. "Only dumbass thing I ever did was be your friend."
Bryce flipped him off as he finished his drink.
"Celebrating graduation already and you're not even officially graduated?" A girl from his econ class set another shot on the table in front of him.
"Two more finals, then one practical. Piece of cake." As long as his sister, Addie, held things together for a few more weeks, he was home free.
Wasn't exactly sure what he was home free to do other than his campus security job, but that didn't matter at the moment. The fact that he made it this far in college was a miracle in itself.
His mom died when he was seven and his dad only a few years ago, leaving Slade to fend for himself and his sister. Sure, Grams had been around to help some, but it just wasn't the same.
No, Addie had never been the same.
Between trying to watch over her and make enough money to keep food on the table, he managed to fit in a little college. So, hell yeah, he'd start celebrating a little early.
He lifted the cup to his lips, but a slicing pain along his temple stopped him.
"Dude! Your eyes —"
Slade slipped off his chair and, without looking, said, "Gotta hit the can." Before my brain explodes.
"You okay, man? I'll come wi —"
"What are we, a pack of girls? I can handle the bathroom on my own." Without making eye contact, he turned, keeping his focus on the floor. He had about five seconds to get somewhere safe before the vision hit.
He just couldn't catch a break, could he? No visions in ages, and now he gets one?
"Did you see his eyes?"
"Who's in for another game of quarters?"
Leave it to his buddies to change the focus back to drinking. Thankfully. It wasn't like Slade could explain why his eyes flashed white, anyway.
He headed toward the hallway across the living room. There had to be a bathroom or bedroom down that way.
Whose house was this, anyway?
Stumbling through pats on the back and punches to the shoulders, he made it to the first door he found.
He opened the door and a girl screeched as she rolled off some guy. Her squeal totally blasted through Slade's throbbing skull.
"Get the fuck out!" the dude yelled.
Slade slammed the door shut and plowed into the neighboring one. Thankfully no one yelled, and he didn't get flashed.
He fell against the door just as the vision hit.
"Please, no!" Addie screamed.
At least he thought it was Addie. She was ... red, as if he looked through red-tinted glasses. Tears streamed down her face as she cowered in the corner of a room he couldn't quite make out.
"I didn't know it was — I can't — You didn't tell me."
"You signed up for this. You want this." A deep voice brushed along Slade's awareness, yet he couldn't see the male it belonged to. "We'll be together forever. You'll never be alone. A family. That's what you wanted, right?"
She shook her head, her hands fisted her straggly hair. "No. Please. I can't. I won't."
"Then you die," the ominous voice shouted.
"Addie!" Slade yelled, but his voice fell on deaf ears.
Then suddenly he stood in a room, and the sounds of children laughing echoed off the walls. He couldn't tell where he was.
"Okay, kids, settle down," a woman said as she sat in a recliner, holding a tiny baby close to her chest.
He immediately recognized the woman as Addie ... only older. Her blue eyes were bright and vibrant. Not like the last time he'd seen them when she came home from her latest binge.
She'd always been so lost, broken, after Mom's and Dad's deaths.
"Mommy, tell us that story again. The one with Uncle Slade having to wear that pink cast." A small boy giggled as he sat at her feet.
Slade's ringing phone kicked him out of the strange vision, and he found himself on a bedroom floor, back against the door. These screwed-up visions had always been random thoughts and images he rarely understood, but this one was clear. His little sis was in big trouble.
Holding his aching head with one hand, he dug out his phone from his front pocket. Addie's name rolled across the screen.
He tapped answer. "Addster? What —"
"Help me. Slade. I — can't —" A scream in the background interrupted her.
"Addie!" He stood, using the wall to help him stay upright. What had she gotten herself into? "Where are you? Addie?"
The line went dead. "Shit!" He tapped the Find My Phone app. Please be okay. Please be okay. As the app searched out Addie's cell, Slade paced the already-thin carpet.
She'd sounded so scared — on the phone and in his vision. And what the hell did that guy from the vision mean by saying she'd wanted a family. What was Slade? And Grams?
Wait — in the last part of his vision she was older with kids. Yes! That meant Slade could save her. No, he did save her.
The app finally pulled up her location, and he was out the door.
Vaguely remembering saying good-bye to his buddies, he busted out of the house and into his car. The fear crackling Addie's voice hacked a hole in his gut. He'd saved her ass a few times over the years, but something about this situation felt way worse than anything she'd gotten mixed up with before.
Mostly because he'd had a vision along with it. That was new. Usually he just got a call from her, at the most inconvenient time possible, asking to be picked up. Or he had to hustle down to the police station.
He pressed the gas pedal and took the corner onto Main Street way too fast. So much for a smooth road to graduation.
Within ten minutes he drove into the parking lot of a run-down hotel. Half of the sign blinked pink neon, and the other half didn't even work. He hopped out of the car, and the frigid winter air slapped his bare arms. Having left the house so fast, he forgot his jacket, and Colorado decided this night, after a three-day heat wave, to turn on the winter blast.
Didn't matter, he had to find his sister.
Hustling toward what appeared to be the main entrance, he glanced around. Two stories of doors were off to his right, all but three windows dark. Besides the blustery wind howling, everything else seemed ... still. As in a B-level horror flick gone wrong.
Addie's scream sent him sprinting toward the closest door, and he saw it was propped open. "Addie!" Ready to yank her out of there, he went to kick the door, but his foot met an invisible wall. Stumbling back, he caught his balance and charged again.
Same result, only his shoulder now throbbed as if he'd tackled a concrete football dummy.
Son of a bitch.
"She's a beauty, isn't she?"
Slade spun. A guy who had to be at least six foot five with broad shoulders loomed a few feet away, his arms crossed over his chest.
"What the hell is going on here?"
The guy smirked and nailed Slade with a stare. Coal-black eyes issued a challenge. "She's mine, Slade."
"The fuck she is." He lurched forward and planted his hands on the asshole's chest. "Let me in there."
The guy didn't budge, no matter how hard Slade pushed. He looked like a reject from a vampire movie with his pale skin and slicked-back black hair. The jagged scar along his left jawline and the sheer size of the guy gave Slade cause to worry. He might be a tough fight.
Didn't matter. Addie needed help. He swung, and the bastard grabbed Slade's palm as if batting away a pesky fly. "There is a way ..." His voice trailed off as his wicked eyes looked over Slade's shoulder.
He followed the line of sight to see that the door was wide open now, and Addie stood near a bed. There was a person lying there, the white sheets stained crimson. Light flashed off something in Addie's hand.
Excerpted from Claimed by Light by Reese Monroe, Karen Grove Nicole Steinhaus. Copyright © 2014 Reese Monroe. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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