The Awakening: Liam by Abby Niles
Shifter, Liam Doyle knows Hell. At least he believed he did. The night he feels his mate die, he learns how very wrong he was. Nothing he'd struggled with since Ava's rejection compares to the emptiness that fills his soul by her death. Lost in his grief, he's taken by surprise and drugged. When he wakes, everything changes. Nothing is what it seems, and someone is dead set on making him pay.
When Ava Michaels is taken captive, she's thrust into a dark and terrifying world along with the man she was forced to leave behind. While being near Liam again is heartbreaking, the motive behind her kidnapping is gradually revealed. The more she learns, the more she worries Liam isn't the man she believed him to be. He has enemies willing to do anything to extract their revenge. Can their love survive a crazy man's vengeance?
About the Author
Abby Niles has always loved to read. After having twins and becoming a stay-at-home mom, she started doodling stories to keep her sanity. She didn't plan for writing to become an obsession, but it did. Today, she juggles work, home life, and writing. It's not always easy, but hey, who said life was easy? When Abby's not writing, you can find her playing ‘Just Dance' with her kids or trying to catch up on her never-ending to-be-read list.
Read an Excerpt
A citric taste flooded Liam Doyle's mouth a second before a shot of terror had him jackknifing to a sitting position. He clawed at his throat and the book he'd been reading crashed to the floor.
Not your reality. Not your reality. Not your reality.
He repeated the mantra he'd used to keep from going deep into Bahrraj, to keep from being paralyzed by her emotions.
The constriction around his chest and throat tightened. A cold sweat broke out over his body as he fought the attack, fought to stay conscious of his surroundings.
Not you. Her.
Desperate to get to his feet, he fumbled with the covers, but tumbled out of bed onto the floor on all fours. Muscles tensed, threatening to lock into immobility as he struggled to escape her invading feelings. Forcing stuttered puffs through his taut lips, he clenched his eyes closed.
Not you. Her.
Ava. His mate.
The awareness of her loosened its grasp on his body and mind. He inhaled, once, twice, then pushed to his feet. Something was wrong. He had to get to her. As he stumbled from the room into the hallway, another blinding wave of terror consumed him and he fell against the wall. Her fear was so powerful, so crushing, he could barely stay on his feet, but at least his muscles were no longer trying to lock. He'd won control over the attack. Now he had to help her.
How could he help her? Goddamn it, he didn't even know where she was! He staggered the rest of the way into the living room, inhaling painful breaths into his constricted lungs.
Snarling, his beast slammed forward with its teeth bared. As always, Liam's body failed to respond to the animal's frenzy, but for the first time since she had rejected him eight months ago, he and his beast felt the same overwhelming emotion — fear for their mate. What was happening? Why was she so fucking terrified? Where was she?
The impotence of the moment made him bellow between fused teeth as he fisted his hands in his hair and pulled. An icy cold filled his veins. Everything froze. His body. His beast. His emotions. Everything. Froze. The terror slowly seeped from within him. A dark shadow crept in, replacing the essence that was Ava that lived in his blood.
His beast roared.
This couldn't be happening.
As her life force drained from him, he dropped to his knees. Tears scorched the back of his eyes. The last flutters of her life ceased to pump in his veins and he was left with nothing but emptiness.
He searched deep inside for any sign of her, a flicker, a hope someone was trying to breathe life back into her — to give her back to him. The emptiness did not shift, did not even shimmer. It lay inside him. Heavy. Cold. Dead. Even his beast lay unnaturally dormant. No growls or agitated pacing, as if it, too, knew its mate was gone.
Bile rose in the back of his throat. He shoved to his feet, making it to the kitchen sink before he could no longer hold back the contents in his stomach. The sounds of his retching echoed throughout the kitchen. Afterward, he slid down the cabinet to the floor, staring at nothing.
Where had she been? How had she died? The terror made him certain her death was at the hands of someone else. Someone she knew? A stranger?
Two bare feet came into view and he lifted his head to stare up at his roommate, Brit.
"Why are you making such a damn ruckus, man?"
He swallowed, then licked his lips, trying to form the words, but unable to get the syllables out of his mouth.
"Liam?" Brit squatted in front of him, brows knitted as he cocked his head to the side and studied him. "Is this some new fucked up symptom of Dsershon or something?"
No, this ... this was far worse. When Ava had ended their relationship eight months ago, her rejection had devastated his bond to her, sending him into a debilitating condition called Dsershon. When they were together, he'd reveled in the peace their bond had provided him. After she'd left, that peace had shriveled, replaced with anger, bitterness, and helplessness that slowly ate him alive, changed him from the happy, strong man he'd once been, to nothing more than a lost cause who was at the mercy of his mate's emotions.
He'd gladly spend the rest of his life like that if it meant he'd escape the darkness lying heavy inside him now — a heaviness that would never ease, a darkness that would never lighten. Forever.
Unshed tears blurred his vision. "A-Ava's dead."
Brit jerked back. "Fuck." He scrubbed his hand across his mouth. "Fuck."
"Terrified. She was so terrified." He rubbed the area above his heart. Silent. Still. "Gone."
His friend fidgeted, looking uncomfortable as his face scrunched into an I- have-no-clue-what-to-do expression.
There was nothing he could do — nothing anyone could do.
"It's going to be okay."
No. The nothingness inside him ensured it would never be okay. Liam shoved to his feet and strode down the hall, needing to escape the small cabin and Brit's sad, knowing expression. His friend knew what would happen to Liam now, knew the future he faced.
"Hey," Brit called. "Where the hell are you going?"
"Got to go." After he snatched the keys off the end table, he yanked the door open.
"Hey! Liam! Just stay here."
He slammed the door behind him.
Within minutes, he was behind the wheel of his truck, driving down the dark, winding mountain road, with no destination in mind. The shock of her death slowly subsided, leaving behind an overwhelming anguish.
His mate was no longer alive. Never again would he feel her course through his body, but live the remainder of his time with this silence.
Why had he given up? He should have fought for her. Now she was lost to him forever.
He slammed his palm against the steering wheel. Fucking Dsershon.
Had he been human, not stuck in the debilitating, soul-sucking obscurity of the condition, nothing would've stopped him from winning her back. But the longer Ava refused to have anything to do with him, the more the Dsershon had taken over his life, made him stop giving a shit about anything. Until he was aware of nothing but her emotions flowing through his body ... and the sinking realization that his mate had never loved him.
Except she had fucking loved him. Even as she'd tried to reject him, she'd hesitated, cried, and then his stupid mouth had supplied her with the fury to go through with it.
The real reason she'd left him had died with her.
As had his chance to fix what had driven them apart..
When he turned onto a street, he realized he'd driven to Ava's neighborhood. Even in death she still drew him to her. He stopped in front of her two-story house. Every window was illuminated. A strangled sound whistled out of his chest.
This was where she'd died.
Ava only kept the lights on when she was home. As soon as she walked into the front door, she started flipping on every switch in the house, saying the shadows gave her the spooks. A quirk he'd found endearing. But it hadn't been the shadows she should've been worried about. It was the monsters waiting outside. He should've been here to protect her. He would've killed to keep her safe. His beast would've killed.
Was her body lying on the floor still undiscovered? Was the killer still inside?
No ambulance, police cars, or fire trucks were present. Other than the bastard that had taken her life, Brit and Liam were the only ones who knew she was dead. Imagining her body, lying alone, felt like a knife to the heart. He had to go in. See for himself she was truly gone.
After he jogged up the stone walkway, he grabbed the key from the top of the doorframe and opened the door. Ava's familiar floral scent tackled him as well as the metallic stench of human blood. He recoiled, almost losing the strength to proceed, but he forced himself to follow the reek up the stairs, death taunting him the entire way. When he entered her bedroom, the smell overpowered him. He gagged, stumbling backward against the wall.
Could he face this?
Damn it, he had to.
Forcing himself back into her room, his gaze immediately went to the puddle of blood at the foot of the bed and the curled fingers lying in it — Ava's slim, French manicured fingers. His throat tightened, making it difficult to draw in air. A part of him hadn't wanted to believe it, couldn't accept it, but the evidence before him forced him to face the truth.
Ava was truly dead.
As he moved to the corner of the bed, his beast roared, thrashing violently inside. Liam moaned, and dropped to his knees beside her still body.
"Oh, A-Ava. What did they do to you?" He leaned over her, hands held out toward her, unable to believe his mate had been taken from this world in such a violent manner.
Blood drenched her turquoise camisole. The sticky substance streaked through her strawberry blond hair and puddled beneath her head and body. So much blood. There was so much fucking blood.
He reached toward her, then hesitated, afraid of touching her, afraid to find the warm skin cold as ice, scared to accept.
Tears burned his eyes. When he finally touched her, he brushed aside a lock of blood-stained hair that clung to her cheek. One touch wasn't enough. He skimmed the back of his fingers down her cheek and the side of her neck, relieved to feel the warmth had yet to seep from her skin.
Violent tremors started to quake his body. Unable not to, he gathered her against his chest and rocked. Anguish ripped past his throat and into the air as his soul shattered.
Burying his head in her neck, he hugged her tighter, aware that her arms hung limply, never to hold him again. Her eyes stared past him, never to focus on him again. Her parted lips did not move, never to speak his name again.
He sensed the movement behind him later than he usually would. As he turned his head, a sharp prick pierced his neck.
The last thing he heard was a dark, menacing laugh, and a low whisper. "I knew you'd come."
Then everything went black.
Liam groaned as he rolled onto his back. Cracking open his eyes, he flinched away from the bright florescent lights high overhead. Nausea churned his stomach and he inhaled, then exhaled slowly to calm the storm brewing in his gut.
Though his stomach settled, the careful breathing didn't help ease the suffocating compression on his chest. Where was he? What'd happened?
He massaged above his heart.
Dark. Heavy. Deathly silent.
Memories of Ava's lifeless body, the blood, so much blood, bombarded him. His therapists had warned him that he didn't know true torment yet. This vast darkness, the emptiness inside him, was the true suffering — a constant reminder of the worst moment of his life — his mate's death.
She'd been so terrified. Had she pleaded for her life? Or worse, pleaded for death?
A low rumble vibrated his chest as rage boiled deep inside him. The fury simmered, begging to be unleashed, and he wished to set it free, wished that he and his beast were reconnected, so he could allow the animal control of his feelings. Though they may be disconnected because of the Dsershon, his beast's rage gave him something else to focus on: avenging Ava's death. The motherfucker who'd killed her would pay. He forced himself to sit up and survey the room
The strange chamber was maybe twenty-by-twenty feet with no windows, except for an observation glass close to the high twenty-foot ceiling. Bright- white, padded walls surrounded him. The starkness of the color was only broken by a light gray door and a crimson curtain that spanned the entire width of one of the walls.
Where the fuck was he?
He remembered the sharp prick in his neck, the blackness that overcame him immediately after the menacing, I knew you'd come. Could he really have been waiting there for Liam? That whisper — if he'd really heard it — implied as much, made his kidnapping sound deliberate. Which made no sense to him. He could see no motive.
Did it really matter? The worst thing that could've happened to him had already happened. His mate was dead. Nothing this fucker could dish out would ever compare to that torment.
If anything, it would be Liam who tormented the killer. All he had to do was come up with a plan to get his hands on the bastard, then he could start.
Standing, he scanned the room, . Off to the left was a long, medium-sized cage a little taller than his six feet two inches. He tested the bars.
Reinforced Steel. Thick. Unbreakable. Even for him. In the far right-hand corner, a portion of the room had been sectioned off by a half-wall. As he rounded the corner, a tiny bathroom came into view. Enough room for a toilet, sink, and shower. Lying on top of the sink was a pair of gray jogging pants and a T-shirt.
He blinked in disbelief. The killer had known he was going to bring someone here. He lifted the garments, checked the sizes — a perfect fit.
What the hell?
I knew you'd come.
Had some sicko targeted Ava to get to him?
Holding his arms out in front of him, he stared at the blood that caked his flesh from fingertips to bicep. The dark red stains also saturated his clothes and stuck the fabric to his skin. Ava's blood.
Had she died because of him?
The question knotted his gut and he was perilously close to losing the contents of his stomach again. And he wanted to scrub his mind and body clean of that possible motive. Had that been the point?
Had his captor wanted to watch his victim, watch Liam, scrub himself clean and dress in clothes he'd provided? Did it make him feel powerful? The numbness bubbled with rage, not from his beast but from himself, and he relished the feeling — embraced it.
Turning his back on the bathroom, he stalked into his enclosure. He looked up toward the top of the twenty foot high wall, to the observation glass. Just in case he was being watched, he stepped back, making sure he was in view.
"Fuck you," he said with lethal calm.
Using his sensitive sense of smell, he sniffed the air, searching for the woodsy scent all shifters carried, but detected nothing except the staleness of the room. Not even the musky scent of a human.
The absence of smell, the inability to decipher if it was a human or shifter who had him, bothered him. Who the hell could it be?
He stepped over to the door, touched it. Steel again. Solid. Nonetheless, he shoved against it. The door didn't even creak against the pressure.
No space between the edges for his fingers to pry it open either. He pushed at the small opening in the middle of the door he assumed had been used to pass a food tray through. Again, nothing, not even a give.
No latch from his side. No windows. Not a goddamn thing to use for escape.
What was behind the curtains? He started toward them, making sure to keep his stride calm and purposeful. If whoever had him was watching him, he wouldn't see any panic coming from Liam. He refused to show any fear. Wouldn't give the man the satisfaction.
He'd taken no more than a few steps when the room went dark and the curtains slowly parted in the middle, drawing back. Another room identical to his appeared. Squinting, he stepped closer to the glass. There was something in the middle of the room.
It was flat and large, maybe six feet high and four feet wide, definitely made of wood. The board was attached to a rusted metal axis that connected to the floor and kept it standing upright.
Why was it in the middle of the room like that?
A person dressed in black from the neck down and wearing a werewolf mask stepped through a door on the other side of the glass.
From his height and stature, Liam assumed it was a man. Leather gloves encased his hands. Other than noting the man had a large weight-lifter build, he could discern nothing else. Not the color of the man's skin, his hair, age, nor species.
The man stopped beside the contraption and faced him. The feeling that he was being watched was unnerving, and he swallowed.
I knew you'd come.
The board slowly turned around the axis to reveal its other side.
He gave a wounded cry, and staggered forward. "No!"
Dea, he'd been so wrong. This man could torture him.
Ava's lifeless body was strapped to the board with leather bands that ran across her forehead, shoulders, wrists, stomach, thighs, and ankles. Bellowing in rage, he charged the glass, prepared to shatter it and kill this asshole. He rammed his body into the partition — and bounced off.
Stunned, all he could do was stare at the barrier between him and Ava. A fresh wave of rage washed over him and he threw himself against the glass again, shooting pain through his shoulder.
The man withdrew a syringe from his pocket. What the hell was he doing? Liam pounded on the glass. "Goddammit, leave her in peace!"
Excerpted from "The Awakening: Liam"
Copyright © 2013 Abby Niles.
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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