Authors: Rhenna Morgan
In a world divided by war, falling in love is the ultimate betrayal.
Galena Shantos has never questioned her loyalty to Eden. As sister to the Myren king, she serves as a healer, one of the best in the army fighting to suppress the brutal Lomos Rebellion. She’s never doubted the importance of stopping the rebels bent on enslaving humans, until she spots a warrior across enemy lines—and knows instinctively that their destinies are entwined…
Rebellion warrior Reese Theron has nothing left to lose. He’s been forced to fight on the wrong side of a war he abhors in order to protect his family secret. His honor lost, as well as the trust of his own people, Reese has thrown himself into a battle he cannot possibly hope to survive. But after being rescued by a beautiful woman whose exquisite eyes seem to see him for more than the traitor he’s become—he may have just found a new reason to live…
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Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
An Eden Novel
Kensington Publishing Corp.
Lyrical Press books are published by
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Copyright © 2015 by Rhenna Morgan
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First Electronic Edition: December 2015
First Print Edition: December 2015
Printed in the United States of America
To my husband, Victor. For never giving up, growing, and loving me just as I am. You’ve healed us both.
The discipline it takes to get from, “Once upon a time,” to “The End,” is pretty intense. Well, for me it is anyway, and there are lots and lots of people who keep me sane in the process. My heartfelt thanks to T.D. Hart, Lauren Smith, Dena Garson, Lorenda Christensen, and Lucy Brower for your many interventions.
I’d also never make it to print without some very important people—Penny Barber, Sarah Hegger, CJ Burright, and the amazing Kensington/Lyrical Press team. Seriously, between reading all my drafts and pulling me back from the ledge when my devastatingly handsome muse goes on strike, you guys deserve a lifetime supply of coffee and chocolate.
I’ve got a pretty killer support team too. People who keep the engine running at Mach speed even when I’m writing at a snail’s pace—Jay Donovan, Fiona Jayde, Laird Sapir, and Kami Adkison.
And finally, endless hugs and kisses to the family for putting up with me day after day, and skillfully hiding those eye rolls when I say, “I gotta get my words in.” I couldn’t do this without you, nor would I want to.
A lightning bolt sheared past Reese into the smoke-filled night sky and left an acrid stench in its wake. Streaks of fire and blue-white fingers of electricity flared so bright he could barely focus. He wasn’t getting out of this. Not this battle, or this life, with any modicum of honor.
Darting through the air, he dodged another electrical strike.
An elite flashed into view and swung wide, his bloodied dagger aimed at Reese’s gut.
Reese barrel-rolled up and over his attacker, wrapped him in a chokehold, and masked their presence from the rest of the fighters. Praise the Great One, he should be fighting beside this warrior, not against him.
The warrior flailed and tried to break free, the lack of footing giving him zero leverage. He slumped, unconscious, into Reese’s ready hold seconds later.
He lowered them both to the tree line at the battle’s edge, out of site from the rebels. The man couldn’t be more than twenty years outside his awakening. Probably barely into his elite torc and cuffs. Beneath Reese’s fingers, the man’s pulse thrummed slow, but steady. At least this innocent’s death wouldn’t be on his conscience.
A twenty-five-foot wall of flame exploded across the open field and rattled the air and earth around them. The bright flare faded under heavy night, and more rebellion warriors thunked to the mottled field.
The sharp rustle of leaves against the forest floor sounded down the tree line, one quick shift and then silence.
Reese backed deeper into the foliage and strengthened the mask that kept him hidden. It couldn’t be a rebellion man. All those were engaged against the malran’s warriors. Focusing his thoughts, he sought the soulless black thread that represented the link he’d grudgingly created with Maxis Steysis, and traced his location.
No, not the rebellion leader either. His energy showed more than ten miles to the east, well away from the fight. Reese levitated off the forest floor and floated through the trees. Gnarled and leafless branches scraped his cheek and shoulders. Darkness enveloped him, broken only by the bright attacks where the forest opened to the battle beyond.
There. Not five feet from the tree line, a figure knelt facing the battle.
He drifted closer. The sweet, damp scent of soil and decomposing leaves overpowered the metallic residue of electrical strikes floating on the wind. Grunts, shouts, and the too-frequent thuds of perished men sounded in a haphazard pattern.
A flash spotlighted long, auburn hair. A woman. Bowed over a body, she cradled a fallen companion’s head in her lap.
Reese angled to better see her and nearly faltered in holding his mask. His heart kicked in an awkward rhythm and reality faded to nothingness. Galena Shantos, sister to the malran. The last person he wanted to witness his disgrace.
Seventy years since he’d seen her this close. Her elegant features were still as staggering as the days when he’d trained to serve the malran, but there was more to her now. A confidence in the way she protected her charge and watched the battle. Knowledge behind her tropical blue-green eyes that spoke of experience and age.
And he fought alongside the men who battled her brother.
Galena flinched at another blast and hugged the limp body she cradled tight. As the light dimmed, she uncurled from her burden.
Another woman, her long blond hair stark against Galena’s black tunic and leggings, and her sightless eyes aimed at the heavens.
No. Surely not. Reese crept closer, pressure building at his temples. The zings and thunder of battle rumbled louder, and his gut clenched.
Phybe. She’d been alive when Reese left her, tucked away in a zeolite mine where Maxis couldn’t trace her link. He touched down in the thick carpet of leaves at Galena’s right and dropped his mask. “I failed her.”
Galena jerked and reached for something beneath one leg. “Who are you?”
Smudges marked Phybe’s ashen face, her blue gown torn and satin slippers stained. Somehow Maxis had found her and finished the job he’d sent Reese to do. “He’ll kill me for trying to save her.”
More strikes burst through the thick residual smoke, the malran’s fighters airborne and casting one attack after another. Fewer than twenty rebellion men still lived, half retreating north.
“A cause that fights without honor isn’t worth fighting, is it?” he said.
Galena straightened and squared her shoulders. “I’d have a hard time counting on honor from any man who fights with Maxis.”
“You’re right. I gave that up the moment I agreed to his schemes.” He crouched beside them.
Galena tensed and tightened her grip on whatever she hid beneath her leg.
Reese palmed Phybe’s forehead, cool and lifeless.
May your journey be swift and your spirit find peace with The Great One.
The same Myren prayer he’d offered his mother when she’d drawn her last breath. He stepped back. Maybe it was time to find his own peace. On his own terms. “You don’t remember me do you?”
She shook her head. A terse, barely-there jerk as she eased from beneath her dead charge, crouched on the balls of her feet and coiled for escape.
“My name is Reese Theron.”
She froze, flashes of light from the battle winking off the edge of her blade. She assessed him head to toe, no spark of recognition.
Maybe if he’d been braver all those years ago, he’d have had a chance with her. Or broken his vow and killed Maxis himself when he’d had the chance. He shook the memories off. He’d taken the wrong path and now it was time to pay. “Call your guards. Make sure they know you’re in danger.”
A gunshot rattled the skies and a woman’s blood-curdling scream sounded across the battlefield.
Galena lurched to a stand and then stopped, zigzagging her attention between the shouts along the battlefield and Phybe’s body.
Now was his chance. Either he took the brave farewell, or he’d die by Maxis’ hands. “Your face is a good one to remember. Go with The Great One, Galena.” He shot to the sky and built a violent ball of energy in his palm, sharp tendrils darting from its center. Drawing back, he aimed the bogus attack at Galena. Surely The Great One would understand.
An elite guard spun from across the skies and drew back for counter-attack.
Reese braced for impact.
A streak of auburn flashed below him. Galena, spearing through the air, her trajectory centered between the elite and Reese.
The energy in his palm fizzled. Not her. Not Galena.
Lightning fired from the elite’s palm, sheered past Galena’s cheek, and pierced his shoulder. He jerked and spasmed, locked in place by the force of the strike. Blue-black spots dotted his vision and his lungs seized.
A woman’s scream ripped through the air.
Wind whipped around him, dead weight as he fell, and darkness took over.
* * * *
Galena twisted midair and shot toward Reese, wind blurring her eyesight.
His arms and legs flailed boneless as he hurtled to the earth.
She’d never make it before impact. Even if he survived the fall, Jagger’s strike had been a killing shot, off by inches at most.
Reese crashed against the unforgiving ground, his head and limbs thunking against the trampled turf.
She landed seconds behind him. The sticky iron scent of blood, dirt, and sweat surrounded her. So many men strewn across the grass, their bodies contorted in unnatural shapes.
Less than ten feet away one of her brother’s men struggled for breath, unconscious with a trail of blood at his temple. A loyal fighter who’d battled against an indecent and cruel rebellion.
But it was Reese her palms burned to touch. To feel the beat of his heart. She dropped to her knees and rolled Reese to his back, muscles surging with wells of strength she’d never felt.