The Great Extinction, the prophesied war between the humans and the Supernaturals, has begun.
Born a Supernatural, Juliet Sawyer has the ability to save the world from disaster. But after barely escaping the underground, power-sucking prison known as the Void, she finds herself on the brink of death and in the middle of a vengeful war. To survive, she’ll have to make a deal with her human captors. But the stakes are raised when she learns the government is holding her sister hostage. To rescue her, Juliet must become a weapon for humanity, fighting against her own kind—including Riley West, the boy she fell deeply in love with—and by whom she was abandoned.Forced to desert Juliet, Riley is on a mission to capture the human’s president and bring her to the Supernatural’s king. But if he fails, there will be no stopping the Night of Grief, which will unleash horrors capable of destroying humans and Supernaturals alike. With battle lines drawn, amid a flurry of secrets and betrayals, can Juliet and Riley rescue their love as well as all life on Earth? Or will someone get caught in the crossfire?
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The Tazavorn Series
By Sonya Weiss
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Sonya Weiss
All rights reserved.
Earth, in the year 2034
I'd forgotten the execution of revenge always brings a reckoning. Revenge was the reason for my predicament. I'd told myself I was following my destiny to save the humans, but that was a lie. In truth, I'd wanted to get even with the leaders of our world for murdering my father.
I choked back a sob as I fought the despair threatening to overwhelm me. I needed to save my little sister, Maisy, but I was trapped, unable to get to her. She and the other mixed-blood children with her depended on me to protect them from the humans and the Supernaturals and instead I was deep in the bowels of the Void. It was a triple D place to be. Dark. Dank. Dangerous.
The cold, dark, stone walls of this Supernatural prison were designed to absorb our power. Robbed of our abilities, we were as weak as the humans.
Careful to avoid the loose rocks dotting the ground all around me, I struggled to my feet, worry over my sister's safety driving me to move my aching body. Shut down the fear. Shut down the pain. Do whatever it takes to get out.
A noise to the left caught my ear.
Riley moved haltingly toward me. Even in blue jeans and a T-shirt, his royal bearing was unmistakable. He drew his arm tight against his body as he favored his ribs. Failure and guilt struck again, smacking me in the face. He'd had to save me and I hated that. Hated leaning on him when I knew what I would be called on to do to him. Falling in love with Riley wasn't logical, but when does the heart ever listen to logic? It simply looks into the eyes of the other person, into their soul, and falls. The idea that once he knew my secret he might not ever forgive me, much less love me back, chilled me to the bone. Could I handle seeing the love disappear from his eyes?
The tip of his black Converse caught on a rock and he pitched forward, throwing his hands out to catch himself. The muscles in his arms flexed and he rested his forehead against the wall for a second, shaking his head as if dazed, which I didn't doubt he was. The fall into the opening from the castle above us was a neck breaker. We'd been lucky to live through it.
Riley had risked his life and given up his freedom for me. By jumping into the Void with me in his arms, he'd found a way to stop my own power from killing me.
I made a sound that was half laugh, half sob as a conversation with my late father popped into my thoughts. Use your power for good. Remember your purpose, Juliet.
Sure, Dad, but what good is having power when it comes with a nasty side effect like death? I didn't have an autonomic fail-safe to govern the temperature of my power like all the other Supernaturals did. Every time I used my power, I risked being barbecued from the inside out. When my last manmade fail-safe blew, I'd almost died and Riley had saved me then too.
I blinked back tears and smiled when Riley reached me. Putting my hand on his side, I checked the area he'd favored, and my hand trembled as I remembered the intimacies we'd shared.
"I'm okay," he said. I knew the words for the lie they were. He was far from okay physically and emotionally. His handsome face was covered in bruises, his skin scraped raw in places. Wounds caused when his own father had tried to kill him. Riley reached for my hand, faking a smile. Even in his battered state, he was still incredibly hold-my-breath hot, making me forget everything I wanted to say at that moment.
I put my other hand directly over his heart, taking comfort in the steady beat.
He skimmed his fingers across the side of my cheekbone in an achingly sweet caress as if touching something precious to him. My name escaped his lips on a breath of reverence. With a low sigh, he shifted closer, tangling his fingers in my brown hair. I'd always disliked the color of my hair. It was the epitome of plain even after I'd tried to add red highlights. I'd never thought of myself as pretty. My looks were okay. My build average. Nothing about me stood out.
Riley didn't see me that way. He'd told me I was beautiful. Said he'd noticed me long before I'd noticed him, though I doubted that. No girl, Supernatural or human, overlooked Riley. The concern in his eyes warmed me the way his kisses had when he'd trailed them along the side of my neck. I breathed faster wishing I could return to that moment.
"Are you okay, Juliet?"
I licked my dry lips and stuck my hands into the back pockets of his blue jeans, craving his nearness. "Not really. I know I should be warrior tough like you and the other Supernaturals and be able to quell emotion, but —"
"Stop it," he said firmly, probably guessing what I was getting at. He traced my lips with his thumb. "We'll find your sister."
I pulled my hands free to touch the swelling under one of his eyes, wishing I had the gift of healing like some of the other Supernaturals. "When I think of Maisy, it's like I can't breathe ..." I didn't have to finish speaking before he nodded his head. He knew as well as I did what kind of danger the mixed-bloods were in.
"First, we keep our focus on getting out of here." His blue eyes filled with trepidation as he looked around. He slowly turned his attention to with trepidation as he looked around. He slowly turned his attention to the rock ceiling over us. Though we had a small amount of light filtering in from the castle above, in a matter of hours, the Void would fill completely with darkness, effectively blinding us.
"We can't stay here in the open. It's not safe. When darkness falls, the creatures come out of their hiding places and they —"
"Feed on the flesh and bones of Supernaturals and humans too slow to outrun them," I interrupted him, repeating the tale I'd learned as a child. I shuddered at the thought of what lurked beyond my limited field of vision.
He put his hands around my waist, leading my body to fit tightly against his. "I would die to keep you safe." His fingers tightened and I snuggled closer, stealing a moment to put my head on his chest. He kissed the top of my head as I clung to him and squeezed my eyes closed. Please don't ever let him hate me. Please.
I didn't realize I'd spoken out loud until he put his hand under my chin and tilted my face up. "I could never hate you. I'd have to rip the heart out of my chest for that to happen."
I pressed my hand over my mouth in an attempt to stop the sob from escaping, but I was too late. The idea of what was to come was unfathomable. Trauma blossomed in me, like I'd witnessed a fatal car accident only to learn I'd been the one driving.
Alarmed, Riley's eyebrows shot upward. "Hey. C'mon. You're scaring me. What's wrong?"
I shook my head. The consequences of telling Riley were worse than if I didn't. Tell him, we all die horrific deaths. Don't tell, he dies and maybe there's a way out. Maybe. At least by not telling him, we had a slim chance to survive, but I hated the odds. The stakes were too high. If destiny worked a customer service window, I'd gladly walk up and announce I wanted a different life.
Leaning up on my tiptoes, I locked my hand around the back of his neck, burying my fingers in his silky hair and drew his lips down to mine. His tongue sought out mine, driving my need for him into the stratosphere. When I pulled his bottom lip into my mouth, he sucked in a breath and groaned my name in a voice heavy with need.
He gripped beneath my arms and lifted me off my feet. I wrapped my legs around his waist, and he winced at the pressure.
I let go of him. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay." He lifted his shirt. Dark bruises mottled his sides, and I hated his father even more for the pain he'd inflicted on Riley.
"Maybe we should wait until you're better."
He gave me a wickedly sexy grin. "That will make me feel better."
I laughed and kissed him again, softer this time, and his hands dipped beneath my shirt. I was lost in him, in the sensations he created within me when footsteps drew closer to us from a darkened corridor off to the right. Riley pushed me against the wall and shielded me with his body.
His body went rigid, his hands drawn into fists. The tension drained from him when he saw who joined us.
I stepped from behind Riley but stood close enough so his arm brushed against mine. "Where were you?" I asked Stone
His eyebrows pinched together, and he gave me a look as if he knew what we'd been up to. "I was searching for fire-rocks. They're around here somewhere, and if we find one, we'll have light." He fumbled around on the ground.
"Got one." He ran his hands briskly along the sides of an oval rock and a flame ignited, casting a glow to illuminate a three-foot circle in the dimming light around us. Stone held my gaze for a second. The haunted pain in his eyes made me suck in a breath.
"I'm sorry," I said, knowing even as I spoke the words how woefully inadequate they were.
His girlfriend, Chloe, had been killed and her body thrown into the Void at the same time Stone was cast in. I knew his hurt. Had experienced pain that tore up my insides like a rat was trying to chew its way out. I'd lost people I loved because of the cruel leaders too.
"Now you know why falling in love is against the rules." He tightened his hold on the fire-rock. "You were worried about saving each other and risked everyone else's life." The fire danced when Stone jerked the rock toward Riley. "Chloe's dead because of you." He turned his attention to me. "And you."
"Stone, please look at me," I implored, hating the chasm growing in our friendship. "What happened to Chloe —"
"Didn't have to happen." He looked up at the ceiling of the Void, blinking rapidly. "She meant everything to me. Now she's gone, and what am I left with?" He lowered his head and glanced at Riley with a sneer. "A king who had his kingdom stolen from him and" — he turned his bitterness my way — "the so-called savior of us all who's nothing more than a lab experiment."
The insult hit like a punch to the stomach, and I sucked in a breath. Stone had never cast a slur on the circumstances of my creation before.
I forced myself to push aside the hurt. Hadn't I lashed out when grief had a stranglehold on me? I tentatively touched his shirt, sliding my hand around his waist, intending to give him a hug.
He put his hand on my shoulder and shoved me away. I staggered backward and landed hard on my butt.
Before I could get up, Riley gripped Stone's shirt collar and backed him against the cold, unforgiving wall, their faces inches apart. "I understand your pain — how the rage and emptiness burns — and I know you're grieving, but be a man about it. Don't take it out on Juliet."
Seconds ticked by, and I thought they were going to come to blows. They might have if a light hadn't bathed us all in blinding brightness. I squinted and shaded my eyes with my hand. We'd been focused on each other, and we hadn't heard the Guard approach. Guards weren't known for their kindness. They were the reason some of the mixed-blood children had been maimed and others of them killed. I hated the sight of these heartless Supernaturals.
He swaggered closer, thrusting his wide chest out. "Dissention already?" His stomach hung over the sides of his utility belt, nearly covering his weapon. He reeked of dirt and sweat and when he smiled, he revealed protruding front teeth. He belched and his onion-coated breath wafted in my direction, so thick and putrid I could almost swear I saw the stench hanging in the air like a poisonous gas. My empty stomach rebelled, and I gagged. The Guard's close-set eyes swung to me, and his gaze raked over my body. A gleam of interest flashed in his eyes. He leered and came closer. "What do we have here?"
I wanted to kill the Guard for the way he looked at Juliet. It didn't take a mind reader to guess his thoughts. Stone and I moved in front of Juliet, hiding her from the Guard's view. Juliet was tough enough to kick ass on her own, but not down here. Not without her power. The idiot Guard kept walking closer and stretched out his hand as if to brush us aside.
"You'll be dead the second you make contact," I said, and some part of me wanted him to reach for her so I could feel justified beating him to death. I'd dealt with this kind of Guard before. Bullies who thought they could take what they wanted and leave others broken in their wake.
The Guard withdrew his hand and closed his fist around the handle of his weapon. "You want me dead, eh?"
"That's up to you." I'd always tried to maintain control of my emotions. I'd learned to from a young age, but the thought of anyone emotions. I'd learned to from a young age, but the thought of anyone hurting Juliet stirred the bloodthirst in me.
Heeding the warning in my voice, the Guard spit on the ground, and lowered the light away from our faces. He shined it around his feet. Dozens of skeletal remains littered the dirt. "Friends of yours?" He seemed to think that was hilarious and let out a loud bout of laughter. Sending Stone a sly glance, he said, "Have you found a way to bury your girlfriend?" He kicked the bones. "Or is this how her remains will end up? Spread out in the open because her life didn't matter?"
Stone dropped the fire-rock and lunged for the Guard. He grabbed him around the waist and punched him in the stomach, his fist disappearing into the fleshly folds of fat. Because Stone was powerless in the Void, he was no match for the strength of the Guard. The Guard backhanded him, sending Stone flying into the wall. His body landed hard, the sound echoing like a baseball hit with a bat.
I started forward and the Guard pulled out his weapon, aimed it at me, and barked, "Don't move!"
Another Guard brushed past the first one and relief coursed through me. Mallen. I'd known him for many years. He was as good as this one was unkind, as tall as the other Guard was round. He had strangely shaped eyes with pupils that were a dull orange instead of black. Long gray hair hung down his back in a fat braid. He took in the scene with one glance. "What's going on?"
"This one attacked me for no reason," the first Guard said.
"You pointed your weapon at a member of royalty?"
The first Guard's gaze flicked to Mallen, then back to me. "But he's a prisoner."
"That doesn't negate his status." Mallen bit out each word. "Holster your weapon and return to your station. I'll handle this."
Hitching up his utility belt, the first Guard nodded and backed slowly away.
I approached Mallen, and Juliet's eyes widened in surprise when he gave a slight bow. "Did you have any trouble getting assigned the rotation?" I asked.
"No, but your brother, King Ide —"
"Don't call him that. The thing that stole the throne from me is not my brother and sitting on the throne doesn't make him a king."
I'd always known I would one day become the king. I'd long ago accepted the responsibility of the burden, even though at times, I hated having my life prearranged for me. Hated how it hovered over my childhood like a bad omen reminding me I wasn't free to choose. Not free in any way at all.
"Sir? Are you all right?" Mallen asked.
Mallen pulled a folded piece of paper from his pocket and lowered his voice so it wouldn't carry. "I wish I didn't have to tell you this. I know how you feel about Juliet, but she's your enemy."
I instantly rejected his words. "I won't listen to anyone casting a slur on the girl I love."
"Here is the proof," Mallen protested, trying to thrust the paper into my hands.
"No." I trusted Juliet. I wanted to spend the rest of my life loving her.
Determined to convince me, he said, "The kingdom is at stake."
The kingdom. My duty to always protect it. How many times had I heard that? "Please, read it."
"No," I said again and took the paper, crumpled it into a ball, and shoved it back at him, pinning it against his chest. "Choose your words carefully. Speaking ill of her will cost you your head. I love Juliet and when I take the throne, she will become my queen."
He seemed surprised by my vehemence. With a nervous twitch, he unfolded the paper, smoothing it out. "You would change your mind if you read this."
"I said no!" I forced myself to calm down, to push aside the disillusionment trying to take root, but it refused to go away. Hovering at the back of my mind, the question birthed to life. Was Juliet my enemy?CHAPTER 2
I touched the swollen area on Stone's face where he'd been struck. Ironically, it was on the same side as the long scar he'd received from a different Guard in the past.
"I said no!"
At his outburst, I looked over at Riley. I hadn't seen the no-give expression on his face since the day he'd first come to my house to tell me it was my time to train to protect the leaders. His hands were clenched into fists. Whatever the Guard had said to him, he wasn't a fan of it.
The Guard's body radiated his frustration. "If you cannot do what is best for the kingdom, perhaps you should not rule."
"Don't ever question my right to the crown again." Riley's voice could have been cut from ice.
Excerpted from Reckoning by Sonya Weiss. Copyright © 2016 Sonya Weiss. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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