Can a ruthless warrior convince a broken woman to take a chance on love in his dying world?
Cover artist, Montana Jade
Deadly warlord Northaen has fought for millennia to preserve what’s left of his angelic dominion of Kalasder. On the hunt to locate one of the prophesized women who will help save his realm and take her back with him—or steal her if he had to—he comes face-to-face with a fiery female with the wounded eyes, one who threatens his iron-clad control and turns his world upside down.
Cruelly betrayed, all Kataya Jamison wants is to lick her wounds someplace quiet, not clash with a maddening immortal who believes she possesses the mystical blood magic his world desperately requires. With her life falling apart, it’s the last complication she needs. But when rebels snatch her, and the intractable man comes to her rescue, the armor protecting her heart starts to slip.
Together on his bleak realm, and despite her wariness, neither can resist the desire blazing between them. A passion that is intense as it is forbidden. And North will stop at nothing to claim her as his. When his enemies target Kataya, a powerful darkness rises, and their burgeoning bond is viciously tested. But the sacrifice required to defeat it may very well break them both…
*A slow-burn romance with a broken heroine and a bloodthirsty, possessive hero.
Another enthralling installment in the Warlord’s series! Loads of entertaining tension, riveting world-building and action, and, of course, hot love scenes between flawed characters who so deserve a HEA.
Not to be missed! ~Celia Breslin
There’s very few paranormal authors out there that can do complex mythology without confusion. Author Hunter has proven once again that she is a master plotter… The writing is crisp and flows like water. This is a true epic, with sword fighting and consequences that will hit you right in the feels. You just have to plan on no interruptions before you dive in. ~ Amazon Reviewer, Sierra Clothier
Amazing World Building – Who Walks Among Us!?!
Brilliantly written. A pure delight to read. ~ Amazon Reviewer, KSon
How do you describe perfection? Because that is all this author writes. I have never read a series that truly sucks you like these ones. ~ Reviewer, Author of DaR, JMiller
“Imagine, finally having Kalasder’s brutal warlord at my mercy.”
At the cool sword caressing the sun-warmed skin of his nape, North gritted his teeth. His head ached as if someone had used it as a punching bag. Exhaustion weighed him down, and the damn fosser would dare threaten him? As if he wasn’t aware of the pain-in-the-ass for the past several minutes.
North didn’t move, remained hunkered down on the pier of the cabin he’d leased in upstate New York, his gaze on the dragonflies skimming the waters of the tranquil lake. “You must truly have a death wish.”
“And yet I hold the sword.”
“You should have run.”
He sprang up as a blade whistled through the air. His own weapon summoned, he spun around and blocked the deadly strike, the clash of metal ringing among the trees. North flashed to the pine-fringed grassy patch, a better place than the narrow wooden pier to dual this out and hack the idiot into pieces.
His second-in-command charged, sporting an annoying smirk, his sword glinting with an otherworldly blue hue. He met the warrior head-on with a lethal swing to his neck—
Or it would have been, but a thunderous crack erupted as Rig countered. North’s blade shattered, the splinters falling onto the grass.
He glared at the broken, human weapon.
“Vae, Adad,” Rigel grumbled, swiping the plasma seeping from his injured neck. “That strike would have had my head flying into the lake!”
Adad? His enforcers persisted with the annoying Thunder designation.
“Did you think being on the human world, I’d be any slower?” North grunted, ignoring the ache on his thigh from an old battle wound as he picked up the metal shards, grateful for the momentary spending of energy. The fight had dropped his roiling power a notch.
“One can hope.” Rigel grinned, slamming his massive, unbreakable Kalasderian sword with the etched hilt into the ground.
“You look a little better after the last battle.” His second’s too perceptive gilded stare did a quick up-down of him.
“Being struck by a spelled arrow would do that.” Damn rebels. They’d used anything to take him down, like he was that easy to kill. Just as well his mage got the barb out in time, but the wound still throbbed.
“So, this is the human realm?” Rigel glanced around him at the tall trees and shrubs surrounding the cabin, then at the calm lake in front. His smile faded. “Our world resembled this once. Temperate weather. Tranquil. Verdant and colorful.”
North watched his old friend and second-in-command—one of the few males he trusted—through narrowed eyes and waited for whatever brought him to Earth.
Rigel exhaled and crouched on the lawn, his attention on the still waters. “We have a problem. The Rean Forest. Something’s wrong there.”
“How do you mean?”
“Oh, the trees are still standing, but they’re fading, too.” His brow furrowed. “It’s hard to explain. You can only feel it.”
“The Decuris are aware of the situation?”
“Aye.” Rigel’s mouth thinned.
The governing body of Kalasder usually oversaw every aspect of the realm. As nobles with higher-level powers, it fell on them to take care of this problem.
They hadn’t. Rigel had sought him out.
The Rean Forest was as vital to them as finding the chosen women now possessing their world’s mystical magic. They needed the forest’s roots to siphon the build-up of their powerful abilities, preventing any potential disasters.
“Just thought you should know.” Rigel exhaled wearily and rose to his feet. “Since you haven’t mentioned the artifact, I imagine the search still goes on?”
At the mention of their quest, a blast of power shot up into his skull, spiking the headache which started days ago. An anomaly that annoyed him to no end. North grunted, pulled the pain deep into him, and nodded. “It does.”
He’d arrived on Earth a few months ago to help find the missing mystical Stone of Light, the one housing the magic of Creation. And one they desperately needed back on Empyrea to stop their realm’s magic from fading further. Except, the Stone wasn’t whole any longer, having shattered a decade ago, choosing human females to safeguard fragments of its power.
At the rate the hunt was going, his dying dominion would be a hunk of gravel, rocks, and endless sand before they found all the chosen. And far too late for Kalasder.
His jaw hardened. He refused to let that happen.
He’d update his enforcers once he returned to Kalasder. “I’ll be there soon. I have something to take care of first. Keep an eye on the Rean Forest.”
“Will do.” With a wave of his hands, a shimmering portal split the air. Rigel stepped through, and the gateway hissed shut.
North headed indoors to change before leaving for Greenwich Village, hoping his suspicions panned out. If Eve and Brenna were both Chosen, then it stood to reason their other friend must be one, too.
All he needed was one of them to take back to his dying realm. And he hoped to the stars it wasn’t too late for Kalasder.
Man, sometimes she hated her job.
Kat strode for her small red Fiat parked a block away from the smelly job she’d just covered. Her photographer had already skedaddled, undoubtedly because of the wretched smell. Heck, she couldn’t blame him. She must stink like shit, too.
Six years and this was what her work life amounted to, covering a burst sewer pipe downtown.
“You’re still young, Kat. Your time will come.” Her editor’s words ricocheted in her head. Gerhard Jenkins of The Daily Journal was a darn stick in the mud when handing out hard-hitting assignments.
Young? In four months, she’d be twenty-seven.
She appreciated he’d given a just-out-of-college reporter a chance all those years ago, and she’d work her butt off since then. But her old insecurities dug their claws deeper every time Jenkins doled out another vapid story to cover. Not good enough for her parents, not good enough for Gerry. It wasn’t like she wanted to win the Pulitzer Prize or something. But, apparently, fashion shows, charity drives, and burst sewers were more her forte—
Wolf whistles erupted from the construction site opposite, hauling her back to the busy street. Her mouth tightened in irritation. To them, her height and stop-sign red hair were like a billboard saying, catcall me. Assholes.
As she reached her car, a small body went flying past. Instinctively, Kat grabbed the child. A little girl with curly dark hair and huge brown eyes looked up at her and grinned, revealing a mouth of tiny pearly whites.
“Thank you, thank you!” the mother panted, rushing to her, hauling a stroller along. “She just got away from me.”
Kat barely heard her, her gaze on the infant asleep in the buggy, her chest cramping. Even a decade later, the loss of her unborn baby hurt like a knife lodged permanently in her heart.
“No problem.” She forced a smile and handed over the boisterous toddler.
The woman sighed as she strapped a safety harness on her little girl. “She thinks she can get to the park faster without me. Thanks again,” she said, and the little family ambled off.
It took a moment before Kat could breathe again. The urge to light up took hold, but since she was trying to give up the nasty habit, she found a mint in her tote and popped it in her mouth.
Maybe spending time with Eve would help her refocus. She hadn’t seen her friend since Brenna came to visit them both a few days ago, shortly before an immortal—a dark angel—had flown off with her.
Jesus. Otherworldly beings in their world?
Kat didn’t even want to even think about it. But since both her friends had fallen for those angelic beings, she didn’t have much of a choice.
An hour later, she drove her car into the Village as twilight hovered, and thankfully, found parking close to Eve’s building. As she began the dreaded parallel parking, her cell rang.
“If it’s important, you can call again. My car doesn’t support hands-free,” she grumbled, maneuvering her Fiat into the shoebox space. The ringing stopped.
Kat switched off the engine and got out of her car. Darn, she should call Eve. Her friend could still be at her studio, which was just around the corner from her apartment. As she leaned in to retrieve her cell from the console, it rang again.
Frowning at the unknown number, she hip-bumped the door shut and answered. When she heard the male voice on the other end, relief flooded her.
Finally. After months of silence.
North entered Eve and Reynner’s quiet apartment, shutting the door behind him.
Slouched in the armchair, Aerén, the youngest prince of Empyrea, glanced his way. Strands of his light blue hair escaped its tether to frame his brooding features. “You’re back.”
North arched an eyebrow. “You missed me. Good to know.”
Snorting, Aerén slumped lower, staring at the muted news on TV. “I can’t believe we lost a Chosen to the freakin’ Darkrean warlord!”
And that still annoyed the prince to no end. It had been two days since that warlord had left with Brenna back to Dregarus.
“We didn’t lose her, Aerén, she’s in love with him. She made her choice.” He headed for the coffee machine in the galley kitchen.
“Sometimes, I question the wisdom of human females,” Aerén groused, drumming his fingers on the padded armrest. “She could have done so much better than the blackguard, Sebris.”
North understood the prince’s ire since he’d blamed the Darkrean leader for all the troubles Empyrea faced. Most times, North would have agreed with him. However, he didn’t think Sebris was responsible for the disappearance of Aerén’s parents, the cause of the male’s current antipathy.
North sipped the rich, aromatic coffee and made his way to the window.
“This waiting is driving me crazy! Yo, Kalasder? Wanna join me at the clubs later tonight? Meet up with some of the fairer sex?”
“Not the way you plan,” North retorted, staring down at the busy street below.
“You should try it. Hooking up will get rid of all the, er, aggression I sense,” Aerén shot back, laughing. Then the sound of swords clanging together erupted from the TV as he started his PlayStation game.
North scrubbed his whiskered jaw, a restlessness stirring within him. He should leave, go back to Kalasder, get someone else to check out his suspicion, yet his feet didn’t move.
Hell, if Reynner could just leave his mate alone for five seconds, he could get Eve’s other friend’s name and address. Two minutes tops, and he’d get this done.
A redhead on her cell phone, gesturing wildly, snagged his attention. Suddenly, she kicked the tire of a car then hopped on one foot, startling him.
That had to hurt.
She was tall for a human, but something about her seemed familiar. His brow furrowed as he tried to place her. She slumped against her small automobile and lowered her head to her arms braced on the roof, an air of despair clinging to her so strongly, he could sense it from where he watched her, several stories above the street.
Seconds passed before she straightened, and moving as if an automaton, she opened the car door, burrowed briefly inside her vehicle, then resurfaced. With shaky hands, she put something in her mouth.
He’d been in this world for a few months and had seen enough of the danger mortals faced. Yet, with their brief lifespan, they would further harm themselves using these destructive vices.
Why was he watching her, anyway?
Human females held little interest for him except for those who possessed the magic that should resonate within them once their paths crossed. He shouldn’t care about a random woman who kicked car tires and smoked death sticks. The redhead climbed into her car, maneuvered it out of her tight parking spot, and took off at a terrifying speed.
North shook his head. The female sure had a death wish. He pivoted from the window and headed for the counter.
“Hard to believe how this quest has changed,” Aerén said, his attention fixed on his game. “We started out two thousand years ago watching and waiting for the missing artifact to surface, only to discover it had crashed a decade ago in the mortal world, choosing human females to house its magic—females that are mates to our kind.”
North set his mug down and sat on a barstool. “These matings would cause problems in Empyrea.”
“It’s one of the reasons why I won’t take Eve there,” Reynner said, walking into the kitchen. He tied back his ice-blond hair with an elastic band, expression grim. “Unless there’s change in our world.”
He understood Reynner’s concern. But trying to change the eons-old ruling of an entire world would be like hacking a mountain with a teaspoon. Their people were too steeped in their beliefs and laws.
“You do realize once we find all the Chosen, they will have to go to Empyrea? And Eve, too,” he pointed out.
“Then there’d better be a change to the rules and their attitude,” Reynner countered as he selected a mug from the cupboard.
“My brother should know about this.” Aerén tossed the game controller aside and leaped up to pace, as if he had too much energy to stay still any longer. “As the current Elyon, only he can make the required change stick.”
“Yeah, Anedaén probably could,” Reynner agreed, pouring his coffee. “But do you seriously think the rest of the dominions’ political councils will accept Empyreans having humans as mates?”
No, North knew straight up the governing body of Kalasder would never agree.
“They have no choice,” Aerén retorted, stopping near the window. “We cannot have Empyrea dying just because they won’t accept mortals.”
North exhaled, his edginess hiking.
“You okay?” Reynner asked, leaning against the kitchen counter, palming his mug.
At his sympathetic indigo stare, North wondered which item from his mile-long list he should dump on this warrior currently settled on Earth.
Reveal the harsh truth about the deadly decline his realm had plunged into soon after the mystical Stone went missing? About how something was wrong with their sacred Rean trees now, too? Or how he fared since Nida had departed his life?
Hell, he’d seen the accusation in the eyes of his people, though none would dare say so to his face. As a warlord, you should never have taken a mate. She’s dead because of you.
But why point out all the shit dogging his heels?
“I’m good.” He set his mug down. “There’s something I want to—”
“Let’s head out and track for the Chosen.” Aerén pivoted from the window and strode over.
“No, later,” Reynner said. “Safer for us, and we don’t draw attention to ourselves during the night.”
“Not draw attention?” Eve laughed as she entered her kitchen, tucking back strands of dark hair escaping the messy coil on top of her head. “You all look like you stepped out of a fantasy movie set,” she said drily.
Reynner remained silent, but his gaze softened as he watched his mate.
Aerén grinned. “Then the females should happily give us their blood to test, right?”
“No. You cannot simply walk up to a woman and ask for blood.” Eve rolled her eyes. “No matter how good-looking you are, you’re asking for a kick in the bal—er, royal jewels.”
Smiling, Eve slipped past Reynner and reached up for a glass in the cabinet. “Man, I still can’t get over Brenna being in love with Sebris. Who would have thought, huh? My best friend’s the sweetest, kindest person, and she falls for a badass like him.”
“Badass?” Reynner repeated, eyebrows rising.
Her faced flushed. “Well, Sebris’ savagery, I’ve heard about, and you’re just as ruthless!” she shot back. “I saw it all when you dragged me into your life.”
Snorting, Reynner settled a hand on her waist, retrieved the glass from the top shelf she couldn’t quite reach, and handed it to her. “If he feels half the way I do about you for her,” he said softly, brushing her cheek with the back of his knuckles—and he didn’t even seem to care they weren’t alone—“then I can’t blame him for wanting her, magic or not.”
“Hell,” Aerén groaned. “Having to watch the way Reyn drools around Eve makes me want to gouge out my eyes.”
Eve laughed and opened the fridge.
Reynner grabbed an orange from the bowl on the counter and pitched the thing at Aerén. The prince caught the fruit before it whacked him in the face. Grinning, he headed for the door, tossing the orange in the air. “I’m going out.”
“Tone down your appearance,” Reynner called out.
“Not effin’ happening.” The door slammed shut behind him.
“That attitude is going to land him in trouble one of these days,” North said.
“Hopefully, a female who’ll kick his royal butt in place,” Reynner muttered.
A cell rang. Eve retrieved hers from her jeans pocket. “Work,” she murmured, setting the fruit juice on the counter. She answered her call and wandered to the window.
“Give me Eve’s other friend’s address.” North cut to the chase and rose. “I want to check her out, just in case.”
“Damn—of course.” Reynner glanced at his mate. “Both Eve and Brenna possess the magic, and she might, too. But discreetly. From what I’ve learned, she doesn’t care much for our kind,” he said, expression wry. “I don’t think she’s easily going to give us any blood for the test.”
North shrugged off the warning. She might not care for them being in this realm, but he wasn’t leaving, not until he knew for sure whether she possessed any of the artifact’s magic. Then he’d convince her to return with him. Hell, he’d steal her if he had, too. All that mattered was saving his world.
“I’ll get her agreement.”
Reynner sipped his coffee as if hiding a smile. “You haven’t met many human females or at least spent time with them. They are…complicated.”
How difficult could this be? “Her name?”
“Kataya Jamison, or Kat, as Eve calls her.” Reynner gave him the address.
As North headed for the door, his gaze fell on one of Eve’s framed photos on the bookshelf, a snapshot of herself and her two friends. It was her, the female he saw on the street, kicking the tire. While Eve and Brenna were laughing, the redhead sported a smile, but her expression remained distant, nothing like the emotional female he’d seen earlier.
Outside on the darkening streets, North paused, a prickling sensation sliding down his spine. He scanned the street and surrounding area but picked up nothing to warrant this unease.
Instead of heading for the quiet alley he used to dematerialize, he strode back into the building and up the brightly lit stairwell. Mentally, he killed the lights there. Why make it easy if they were being watched?
His mind back on his job, he dematerialized to Kataya Jamison’s apartment.
Moments later, he reformed behind her building, then headed around the side street to the front. A male came out of the security door, and North slipped inside before it shut him out.
As he climbed the stairs like a mortal, heading for the fourth floor, a faint intoxicating floral scent teased his senses, stirring his blood and hardening his groin.
North stumbled to a halt. What in Ater’s Hell?
He did a quick mental search for the source, but the gut-churning fragrance eluded him.
He didn’t have time for whatever it was.
Jaw clenched, his breathing shallow, he continued upstairs.
Once he checked out Kataya Jamison and took her off the list of potentials, he would track this scent gripping him by the balls and get rid of it. As if he needed a damn distraction when he had a realm to save and the next Chosen to find.
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