It was a time when gods walked the earth, when armies fought not for bits of land, but for the very existence of humanity. On such a battlefield, five formidable warriors stood against an evil greater than any the earth had ever seen. But evil is not an honorable foe. Betrayed by someone they trusted, the warriors were cursed, one by one, tossed into the maelstrom of time, imprisoned in stone, their freedom resting on nearly impossible conditions. Until. . . .
Gabriel Halldor . . . one of the fiercest warriors the world has ever seen, but his tremendous skill can’t save him from a sorcerer’s curse. Trapped in stone and left lying in darkness for thousands of years, he is, at long last, brought into the sunlight of a Japanese garden, where a young girl comes to sit at his feet and read him stories as she grows to womanhood.
Hana Himura . . . beloved granddaughter of a Japanese mob boss, raised to the life of a warrior. When death comes for her grandfather, he sends her to the one guardian courageous enough to protect her from a sorcerer who will stop at nothing to have her.
Raphael . . . the most powerful vampire lord on earth, and the only man who can save Gabriel and Hana from an enemy who would enslave them both.
Running from the certain death that awaits them in Japan, Hana and Gabriel flee to Malibu and the vampire lord her grandfather called friend. Raphael is magic and power combined, and Gabriel and Hana will need both if they’re going to survive long enough to defeat their enemy and light the flame of desire that’s been simmering between them for years.
D. B. Reynolds is the RT and Epic award-winning author of the Vampires in America series of paranormal romance, and an Emmy-nominated television sound editor. D. B. currently lives in a flammable canyon near the Malibu coast, and when she’s not writing her own books, she can usually be found reading someone else’s. You can visit D. B. at her website.
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.60(d)|
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GABRIEL FOUGHT TO free the rest of his body, feeling every piece, every ounce of stone as it loosened and fell away from his head, his chest, his arms and legs. Air touched his skin for the first time in hundreds of years, maybe thousands. He had no way of measuring the passage of time after he'd been trapped by Sotiris's curse. He knew only that more than two centuries had passed since he'd been unearthed from a volcanic cave by Hana's grandfather's grandfather and brought to rest in the Himura gardens. Not this garden, where magic seeded the very earth, but a garden. One with trees and sunlight, with birds singing, men arguing, and lovers trysting. It had been a great boon and enough, for a time, but now ...
Now Hana had freed him. He'd known from the moment he'd first seen her, the moment she'd seen him, truly seen him, in a way that no one else had since his imprisonment, that she would be the one to break the curse. Her grandfather had known it, too. Himura-san had come to this place and spoken to Gabriel almost apologetically, explaining that he didn't know when it would happen, or what events would bring it about, only that he knew it was Hana who would finally free him.
And Gabriel had been content to wait. Because it was Hana, and she was his. And now it had happened. He'd known only a crisis would bring her to say the necessary words, to weep enough tears to soak into the stone of his prison, but even he hadn't imagined this. Himura-san was dead. Gabriel grieved the loss of his friend, for all that it was bittersweet because that same loss had brought about his freedom.
Another explosion thundered over the garden, causing tremors beneath his feet and shaking the impenetrable hedge that surrounded him. Sporadic gunfire followed, a last-ditch defense by the loyal, but doomed, Himura soldiers. That was bad enough, but what followed was far worse. The stink of magic drifted through the air and over the hedge. Gabriel was no sorcerer, not like Nicodemus, under whose leadership he and his warrior brothers had fought. But one couldn't spend decades on those ancient battlefields without knowing when magic was being used, and in this case, for what. Someone out there had cast a seeking spell.
Himura-san had warned him of this. They wanted Hana. Gabriel's Hana.
"We have to go." He reached down and scooped her up, her waist so delicate beneath his arm that he eased his touch for fear of hurting her.
She'd been staring at him in shock and a little fear, but she recovered quickly enough, slapping at his arm and saying, "I can walk, you know."
"Yes, I know." He smiled absently, not surprised by her reaction, or her fast recovery. He'd spent hours and weeks replaying every visit she'd ever made to his garden. He didn't know which visits he'd loved the most — the ones where she'd been silent and meditative in martial exercises, flowing from form to form with a grace that was a gift to witness — or the times when she'd sit on the grass, leaning against his legs as she read to him, taking up the task from her grandfather and his grandfather. There'd been books, magazines, newspapers, and more recently the internet, which was far more wide-reaching in its scope, and sometimes puzzling to a man who'd been born in a time when ink and parchment had been rare and expensive. It had never mattered what Hana had read to him, however. It was the sound of her voice that had kept him sane, given him hope.
The first Himura, the one who'd brought Gabriel out of that cave, had been a sorcerer, albeit a minor one. But he'd had just enough magic to know what he'd found, and enough curiosity to search for the origins of the curse that had created Gabriel's stone prison. He'd never found it, but he'd passed the task on to his descendants who'd discovered the purpose of the curse, along with the core of what it would take to free him. But curses were tricky things. There'd been no way to accelerate Gabriel's freedom. It wasn't as simple as bringing in any woman to weep and say the words. The eldest Himura had died, and his son after him and on down the line, each successive generation taking up the task of Gabriel's safety and education, until finally a daughter had been born. A daughter who'd come to Gabriel's garden and seen him in a way no one else had.
Now that he was once more a free man, he didn't care how much longer he lived. If it was long enough to make Hana safe from her enemies, he would die content.
His arm slid from around her waist, but he remained close, nose to the air, senses on high alert. The enemy hadn't yet found this hiding place. The multiple twists and turns of Himura-san's gardens had been designed for more than beauty. They'd been crafted for just this, to thwart discovery of Gabriel and whoever stood with him, especially by magical means. Keeping his body between Hana and the enemy's most likely approach, he followed her to the far corner of the garden, where a long escape path tunneled through row after row of seemingly impenetrable hedges, coming out at a never-used door in the back wall of the estate. He'd never seen it before, but both Himura-san and Hana had described it to him in exquisite detail, his warrior's mind seeing it laid before him as if he'd walked it personally. The door at the end had been kept in perfect condition — its wood treated, hinges oiled — against the day any member of the Yakuza knew would come eventually.
"Stop," he now ordered softly, reaching a hand around and placing it on her belly, holding her in place, his body curling around hers in automatic protection. To her credit, she didn't fight him, but froze in place, listening, just as he was doing. He inhaled slowly, testing the air. "Quiet as a mouse," he said, finally urging her forward.
"What do you know about mice?" she muttered under her breath, but did as he suggested, every foot precise in its placement, so that she moved nearly as silently as he did. Which was saying something, because Gabriel was one of the finest warriors who'd ever lived. Granted, he'd been better known for his berserker performances on the battlefield, but war was a multi-faceted endeavor. He and his warrior brothers had been as skilled off the field as on it.
Her rejoinder made him smile again. His Hana was the very picture of a delicate maiden, but she was anything but. He didn't know about the "maiden" part and didn't like to think about it, but she was most definitely not delicate. And for what it was worth, he knew about mice. Rodents had been around far longer than this modern society of hers.
HANA DIDN'T NEED Gabriel's whispered "slowly" to approach the secret door with caution. She'd tended it for all the years since she'd come home from university in the U.S., but that only meant it was well maintained — the wood solid, the hinges silent. It was primarily mundane in nature, but her grandfather had placed a minor concealment spell, the most his modest talent could muster and with no guarantee it would work, in case one of his many gardeners happened upon it and became curious. But a magical sensitive could have found it easily enough. And so, she paused while still under cover of the hedge tunnel, searching for any sign of an unwelcome presence.
"Nothing," she whispered, for Gabriel's sake. She didn't know how much he understood about magic, but he had to have the basics. He'd known of their enemy's seeker spell, which meant he was sensitive to its use. Not to mention that he'd offended a powerful sorcerer enough to have been the object of one of the cruelest curses she'd ever come across.
Her grandfather had shared what he knew, what he and his ancestors had been able to uncover after decades of trying. To have been trapped in stone for centuries and probably longer, while seeing the world pass by. To hear everything, understand every language, and yet be unable to react at all, not even to let the world know he was trapped. She couldn't begin to imagine his torment. How was he still sane? Maybe he wasn't, although she didn't believe that. She couldn't have explained how or why, but she'd known he was aware of her from the very first day. He'd listened when she'd read to him, learned of the world through her eyes and, she hoped, found solace in her company.
And now he was free. Her grandfather had never told her the specifics of Gabriel's curse, although she was sure he'd known at least some of it. While he'd had little magical talent, he'd been a dedicated magical historian. His collection of magical books and devices was unparalleled, and thankfully not stored on the estate, or it would all have belonged to Sotiris after tonight. He'd moved it to a private vault some time ago. Not all at once, but a few pieces at a time, using business trips and vacations as cover. It was almost as if he'd known this day would come sooner rather than later and wanted to be prepared.
He'd been a hard task master, his life one of uncompromising honor and discipline — traits he'd pounded into her on the mats and in the classroom. But he'd also held her when she was sick and comforted her when she cried, before setting her on her feet and pounding her on the mats one more time.
She inhaled deeply. There would be a time to remember, to honor his memory. But that time wasn't now. Her grandfather would understand this better than most.
Reaching back, she brushed her fingers over Gabriel's forearm. His muscles flexed reactively, and she frowned. She didn't know the intricacies of a spell that could maintain such powerful, toned muscles over centuries without nutrition, but now that he was free, he was going to need food. And lots of it. Hana had dated big men, had observed some of her grandfather's soldiers. Men like that, like Gabriel, ate a lot. Like a lot. If he wasn't starving already, he would be soon. So, first order of business, escape the estate with no one the wiser and make their way to one of several bolt holes she'd set up in the city. After that, Gabriel could eat while they made some plans. They couldn't remain in Nagano. It wasn't a small place, but it wasn't huge, either. A gaijin of Gabriel's size and appearance would draw unwanted attention.
"Safe?" he whispered, his warm breath sending shivers over her skin. The good kind of shivers.
She slid her hand down to grip his wrist and would have started forward, but he twisted his hand until he was the one doing the gripping and slid past her. Sneaky bastard. She tried to remember if she'd read anything to him about modern women and feminism. Maybe she should have.
Coming up behind him, she waited while he laid a hand against the thick wood. He went perfectly still as he searched for sounds beyond the gate, for any scent or sign of the enemy. But his eyes remained open, because no warrior would close his eyes in the midst of battle. There were other ways of concentrating one's senses.
With a sharp nod, he stepped aside, watching her back as she traced the runes necessary to open the gate, knowing the small amount of magic would be undetectable against the many vines of spells woven into her grandfather's gardens over the years.
Once the gate opened a fraction, however, Gabriel pulled her behind him once more and exited first. She shoved him ahead of her so she could close the gate. Or she tried to. The man was like a fucking statue. She rolled her eyes. Bad choice of words. He seemed to understand what she wanted, though, and after a quick scan of the narrow alley they'd come out to, he moved enough for her to close the gate behind them.
She took the lead after that, and he let her, since she was the only one who knew where they were going. Hell, he'd never been outside the bounds of the secret garden which had been his hiding place. It was one thing for him to memorize the route and parameters of a hedge tunnel, but another entirely to navigate the frequently numberless, nameless streets of a Japanese city.
She started off with him beside her, moving quickly, but easily. Anyone noticing them would see an ordinary young couple walking down the street. Or maybe not so ordinary, but hopefully the shadows on the unlit street would conceal Gabriel's foreignness, not to mention his blatantly anachronistic and military clothing. She needed to do something about that, too. Not his appearance — most of that couldn't be fixed — but his clothing. Why hadn't she thought of this? She'd stocked clothing for herself in her bolt holes. But why hadn't she thought of doing the same for Gabriel? Well, probably because no one — like her grandfather! — had ever told her the fucking statue was going to come to life. Although maybe that was what her grandfather had been trying to tell her all those years, when he'd told her the statue was life-sized. He'd been very stingy with details, obviously afraid she might foil Gabriel's release if she knew too much too soon.
They crossed two unmarked intersections without pause, but as they approached the third, Hana slowed. It was decision time. The sky was already beginning to lighten on the horizon, and she wanted to be well under cover before dawn. She had two hiding places within safe distance, but they were in opposite directions. She studied the buildings around the intersection. Few lights were on already, but those few would be joined by more and more as people woke to prepare for the day. It was a workday in Nagano, but then, what wasn't?
Looking left and right, and seeing no difference in terms of safety, she slid her arm through Gabriel's, in case anyone happened to glance out a window, and turned left, which would take them to a condo in a small complex that she'd purchased years ago, under one of her several well-established pseudonyms. She'd expended a lot of effort over that time, establishing herself in the complex as a quiet professional who worked nights and slept days. She was unfailingly polite and reserved to her few neighbors, and they were the same. Neither they nor she offered anything more in the way of friendship, which wasn't unusual in her country.
She wasn't sure why she'd chosen this particular bolt hole until they got there. She climbed the single flight of stairs to her condo, with Gabriel moving so silently behind her that she almost looked back to make sure he was still there. It was remarkable that such a big man could move so stealthily. It made her wonder what he'd done in his previous life, other than his obvious role on the battlefield, before he'd become the enemy of a sorcerer powerful enough to trap him in a living prison. Opening the door, she stepped quickly inside, looked around, and smiled, knowing what instinct had brought her there. It was bigger and newer, with higher ceilings and better construction, which meant Gabriel's every footfall wouldn't threaten to crash through the floor, and his head wouldn't brush the ceiling.
She watched as he closed the door then turned to study the lock mechanism with a frown. Understanding, Hana reached over, and while he watched intently, flipped the thumb turns on the double deadbolts, then armed the security system. Both were upgrades she'd installed herself, working during the day when her neighbors were gone and she was supposedly sleeping.
Gabriel looked around, and for the first time since he'd been free, she saw his eyes cloud with confusion and ... not fear. She had a feeling there was very little that frightened her ancient warrior. But something close to despair. She didn't blame him. Hell, she was sure she'd have been curled in a corner if she'd survived the way he had, only to find freedom in a world that no longer made sense, no matter how many hours she and her grandfather had spent reading to him. For that matter, if she'd known he was literally going to come to life, she might have made different reading choices, with a lot more pictures. But that wasn't what he needed from her now.
Stepping close, she wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged him, rooting him in the present with touch and emotion. His arms circled her in return, slowly at first, then tighter. And if he held on a bit too tightly, she understood and didn't complain. What was there to complain about? He was hers. Her Gabriel was holding her in his arms, something she'd only ever dreamed of, never believing it was possible.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Gabriel"
Copyright © 2018 D. B. Reynolds.
Excerpted by permission of BelleBooks, Inc..
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