Sometimes the end is really just the beginning…
Dracen Lloyd is the final Guardian looking for her artifact. Believing she’s a danger to her brethren, she leaves the vineyard to seek solace. What she finds is a man named Lucas Kyle.
Luc isn’t quite sure how he got to where he did or who this woman is who saved him. All he knows is the craving he has for her eclipses everything else. The longer he’s with her, the more he falls. Will he be able to remain in her life, or will circumstances take him from her before he’s ready to let her go?
About the Author
Aliyah Burke is an avid reader and is never far from pen and paper (or the computer). She loves to hear from her readers and can be reached here. She can also be found on Facebook or Twitter: @AliyahBurke96. And Pinterest.
She is married to a career military man. They are owned by three Borzoi, and a DSH cat. She spends her days sharing time between work, writing, and dog training.
Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Aliyah Burke 2015. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Totally Bound Publishing.
The wind howled through the bare trees, clacking frozen branches along one another, much akin to bugs scrambling to get purchase on a smooth surface. A tiny sliver of moon cast a weak, pale glow over the snowy landscape. Desolate. Empty. While no snow currently fell, the chill couldn’t be ignored.
Footsteps crunched through the crusted snow as a lone figure strolled to the farthest point of solid land before more of the bogs of the Boundary Waters began. Blood dripped from the razor-sharp blades of her tanto and katana. The sword rested against the sleeveless top of black leather, blending in since the metal was the same color. The tanto hung from the woman’s right hand.
Dracen Lloyd ignored the bitter cold, oblivious to the sting of her own injuries and her exhaustion. Her gaze remained sharp as she scouted for more of the dammed. The demons were relentless. Now isn’t the time for me to relax. Others were near—while she might not be in visual contact with them, she had no doubt they lingered and approached.
How she possessed the knowledge, she couldn’t say. Since she’d accepted her role as a Guardian, she’d devoted her time and energy to being the best she could. It had taken its toll on her. She no longer felt. Anything. Not even empathy toward her foster siblings.
Ice coated her heart and soul. Even now, pain was nothing more than a word. She bled. This she accepted as fact. She comprehended there should be pain. There wasn’t.
She slowed her breathing, scenting the air in order to pinpoint where the vile demons were. With slow and methodical movements, she flexed her fingers—tacky with blood—on the hilts of her weapons.
Her powers were growing. Her understanding of everything occurring was slim. Every aspect of her life had evolved with such swiftness. She’d left the vineyard, that she was a danger to them flashing in the corner of her mind.
They were all happy. Even Tiarnán, the one she had been closest to. She’d smiled at the appropriate times but hadn’t ever been at ease or relaxed. Tiarnán had been aware something was up and she accepted she would have to face him at some point.
Whatever. First we have to survive the prophecy.
One person had a way of contacting her and that came with a strict stipulation. Only if Lian passed. She was certain she would feel if he did, but Altair was her back up.
The wind pierced her exposed skin with the efficiency of Inaki’s well-honed, handcrafted blades. She never flinched. The sensation was odd, not painful. The demons were closer now. Her fingers flexed again, almost with a mind of their own. She could call forth more weaponry—non-blood coated. She didn’t.
More blood would spill this night, no matter whether or not her blades were covered already. To the left came a new sound.
Her mind worked feverishly to work it out. Human? Who would be out here at this hour?
She struggled with her conscience before diverting all her attention to the sound. Deep down she knew her response to this noise should be alarm and concern. As she was, she didn’t care.
I’m losing my humanity.
For that reason, she set out to investigate. Grip tight on her weapons, she lengthened her stride, narrowing the distance between her and her new goal. Using the trees, she stuck to the shadows, aware of how efficiently she blended into the landscape.
A man, barely hanging on, took on four others. She slid from the darkness that had hidden her, sending her knife into the temple of the demon disguised as human, coming up behind the man. It dropped instantly and she had recalled the blade before the other three knew what happened.
“Guardian,” one trilled in its hissing speech as it dodged a strike from the true human.
Impressive this human has held out this long. From the looks of his staggering body, he was nearly finished. Blood poured from numerous wounds and in the miniscule light she made out older scars below the red staining his skin.
She gave only a single thought to warn them away but ultimately decided not to. Without a word, she set out to kill the remaining demons. The moment her tanto and katana flew on a direct course for the two creatures farthest from her—her knowledge of the demons allowed her to have already made the adjustment for their expected counter—she called up a serrated chain and sent the loop out over the nearest one’s neck.
One strong pull lifted the creature off his feet, yanking him to her and keeping the human out of harm’s way. If it was a firebreather there wasn’t any way for it to take the necessary breath to spew its flames.
The male didn’t sink to the ground, relieved by her saving him, he remained on his feet and went to her weapon in the neck of the hellspawn closest to him and ripped out her katana. Their gazes met in the dim light and she saw his dark eyes—she would have assumed they were black if not for her sharp vision that picked out the hint of green.
Anger strummed along the air between them. She brushed him off and returned her attention—most, not all—to the demon.
“Who are you after?” she demanded.
“Fuck off, Guardian.”
His derision meant nothing. She lifted her gaze and met the true human’s again. With barely any effort on her part, she tightened the links around his throat, severing his head.
Acidic blood hissed as it landed on her skin but she ignored it. Without slowing, she strode toward the man. She held out one hand, her tanto returning to its spot in her left.
“Who are you?” she issued the question.
He stood taller than her by a solid five inches. Harsh contours created his face. His nose showed signs of having been broken more than once. Thick eyebrows slashed over dark eyes, giving him more of a rugged appearance.
He stiffened and there was no way to ignore his assessment of her. She allowed it, being as she did the same to him.
“Do not make me repeat my question.” Her tone had grown colder.
His gaze tingled something in the back of her mind. He looked down his nose, opened his mouth, and collapsed in a heap.
Casting out with her power, she sought demons. While more still hunted her, for the moment she was safe enough.
You can’t leave him there. He’ll freeze.
Scowling at her conscience’s reminder, she angled her head to spy behind her. The haze from her sign sprawled over and beside her in an impressive display. Dragon wings hung low, clawed tips cut through the snow’s crust.
Weapons stored, she made her way to the man lying in the snow. She got him back to her cabin and laid him on the sofa. The cold had slowed his blood flow but she understood she needed to patch him up. She racked her mind for the best way to help him. She grabbed blankets.
Get him naked.