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And now for the first snippet of THE ADVERSARY!
Please remember that when I post unedited draft work, it’s all subject to change or deletion. Anything you read will very likely contain typos and grammar issues that will be addressed during the editing process. For that reason, please don’t post this in other places. Happy reading!
THE ADVERSARY, Chapter One
Walking away from her mate was the hardest thing Pia had ever done. He was still there inside his body, trapped by someone—some thing—that was in there with him.
Her hands shook and her vision blurred. Onlookers stood scattered in clumps across the beach, staring with fear and puzzlement written across their faces. She couldn’t look at any of them.
Then something happened behind her. No doubt the sentinels were obeying her order, because Dragos let out a muffled groan.
No. That wasn’t Dragos. It was the imposter, the thief of everything.
It wasn’t Dragos.
But, oh gods, it sure sounded like him.
The Wyr were two-natured, human—or at least human-like—and animal, and the animal that lived inside her turned savage, clawing at her to whirl and attack those who dared threaten and hurt her mate. It didn’t understand logic or strategy, or that Dragos was presently infected by a dangerous entity.
After a brief struggle for control, she broke and ran as fast as she could away from the scene.
Eva called out from behind her. “Pia—”
“Not now!” In case anyone chose to disregard her, she picked up speed until she flew across the sand.
Soon she left the lights and sounds of the people behind, and the moon lit her way. There were winged Wyr who were faster than Pia when they took to the air, but nothing on land could catch her when she put her heart and soul into it—as she did now, trying to outrun the horror of that muffled groan.
She had no idea where her baby had been taken. Niall had been hidden away for his own safety, along with the other children in the settlement.
She had no idea how to help her mate. All she could do was run while her heart felt like it was tearing into pieces. When she was far enough away from everybody, she turned from the beach and plunged into the forest. There, surrounded by intense solitude, she burst out of her human form and let her animal take control as it tried to outrace a reality that felt like a mortal wound.
Finally, exhaustion helped quench the instincts raging through her body, allowing rational thought to surface again.
Get yourself under control, fool, she told herself. He’s not dead. Where there’s life, there’s hope. You can get him back. You will get him back.
She stumbled to a halt at the edge of an empty, moonlit clearing, head hung low and sides heaving.
This wasn’t the lowest part of her life. She’d been desperate and overcome with despair more than once. But this ranked pretty far down there, and if she wasn’t quite as despairing as she had been at other difficult times, the terror of the present moment more than made up for it.
Multiple voices sounded nearby, their clarion tones sculpted by a foreign language.
Panic slammed her. Nobody had ever discovered her in her Wyr form before. Startled into rearing, she looked around wildly for the threat. All her life she had been so careful. She could have sworn she’d been careful this time, but she must have miscalculated badly.
The clearing was no longer empty. A strange creature stood several yards away. It stood as tall as Dragos but was far more slender, and it was so radiant that Pia had to squint to look at it. It was winged—not just with two wings but with many that swirled around its figure like white, undulating flames—and its eyes were piercing with unearthly radiance.
All the sick horror from the day fell away, to be replaced with wonder. Even though she had never seen a creature like this with such clarity before, she recognized it immediately.
It had to be one of the creatures that had been haunting the settlement, nicknamed the unseen. No longer barely perceived or translucent, this one was fully present and as grounded in the clearing as she was. Was it really a seraph, one of the mythical creatures that Bel had described from Elven lore?
Her fight or flight imperative tried to take control again. Nobody but Dragos, Liam and Niall, and the gryphons had ever seen her in her Wyr form. There were others who knew what kind of creature she was, far too many others for keeping such a dangerous secret safe, and she knew that sometimes that fact kept Dragos up at night.
But nobody else had actually seen her.
Despite her impulse to bolt from the clearing, the creature’s noble, inhuman face seemed so… what was the word? Not gentle. It seemed too stern to be gentle. But it did seem, somehow, to be kind, and Pia’s panic couldn’t quite take hold.
It spoke, and multiple voices sounded clear like deep bells rung from a high mountain. While she couldn’t understand the language, all the voices said the same thing.
It walked toward her, sweeping its many wings back and holding out empty hands as if in offering or in supplication. Even though its posture was non-aggressive, she took a wary step back. It looked like it might want to….
To pet her?
Umm, that would be a hard pass. She was no tame pet to meekly succumb to a stranger’s ministrations. With a snort, Pia lowered her horn in warning. The creature approached more slowly and softened its speech. How could so many voices come from a single throat? She stamped the ground and retreated further.
It stopped advancing. Then several shining arcs dropped to the ground like meteorites, and more of the radiant creatures landed in the clearing. Suddenly there were too many for Pia to confront while feeling so exposed in her Wyr form.
She tore into her human form at top speed. As she solidified from the shapeshift, she opened her mouth to ask the creatures if, by any odd chance, they understood American English, but when her human gaze cleared, she stood alone in an empty, moonlit clearing.
Spinning, she checked every direction, but the shining creatures had vanished.
Why would they disappear when they had just arrived? Glancing at the clear night sky, she walked cautiously over to where the first creature had last stood. Something invisible brushed along her arm, and she flung out both hands as she leaped back.
Was it still here? If so, why couldn’t she see it like she had before?
“Who are you, and what do you want—and why did you disappear?” she asked. “Can you hear me? Do you understand what I’m saying?”
She heard nothing but the whispering of wind in the trees.
She strained to listen harder. Was that whispering far-off multiple voices, calling out in a foreign language?
The moonlit clearing darkened. She looked up.
The shape of a massive dragon blotted out the moon’s pale glow. Relief and joy rushed up her body, as if she had been a darkened candle and fire had set her alight.
“Dragos!” she screamed, jumping and waving. “Down here!”
Dragos’s eyesight was so keen he could spot a mouse from high in the air, but he had to be looking for it. She wasn’t sure how that would translate to the intense shadows in a woodland scene at night. How could she catch his attention?
Dragos! She shouted telepathically.
Sharp edges cut at her thinking. Why couldn’t he hear her and respond?
Was that even Dragos?
Even as she realized it couldn’t be Dragos—her first reaction had been based solely on adrenaline-fueled hope and not reality—the dragon tilted into a wide turn. As his giant wings drove down, moonlight gleamed on massive white wings.
Disappointment hammered down, even as a certain kind of relief welled.
Not Dragos, then, but Liam.
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