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Authors: Maggie Mae Gallagher

Ruptured: The Cantati Chronicles

BOOK: Ruptured: The Cantati Chronicles
9.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub







Maggie Mae Gallagher


Once again I have to thank my editor, the stupendous Megan Records, for helping me take this book and make it shine. To my copy editor, the fabulous Joyce Lamb, for helping me put that extra sheen on my work. To the fabulous staff at Damonza, especially Alisha for your gorgeous artwork that continues to exceed my expectations and Benjamin for the beautiful formatting job.

I need to thank Angie Fox, not only for the awesome cover quote on Anointed, but for being a wonderful mentor and friend. Your support on this journey means the world to me. I need to thank Jeffrey Leigh, retired United States Army veteran, whose insights into battle formations helped me mold some of the sequences so that I could portray them with the integrity and honor they deserve. Thank you too, for your lifetime of service to our country.

This one is for my mom. For instilling within me a such strong work ethic as set by your example, believing in me at times when no one else did, and supporting me along this wonderful journey. I love you.

Chapter One

Year 83, Day 256, 18:00 Hours, After Mutari


That word. The one thing I had attempted to escape my whole life. The dull gray walls of the Densare Council rang with impunity. I glanced around at the thirteen members, each sitting rigidly upon a stone chair that looked more like a small throne with intricately carved Celtic symbols paying tribute to a bygone era. They always reminded me of Celtic tombs.

The Densare Council ruled our world with an iron fist of justice created in the fiery destruction of the Mutari. When the Mutari hit Earth eighty-three years ago, mankind had been caught with their pants down around their knees. Drystan, Lord of Infernus, unleashed his demon armies upon the globe in a worldwide campaign to annihilate the human race. He almost succeeded.

The Densare Council, forged under an alliance of nations, sat in confident repose encased in their long white robes, their faces devoid of any remorse at my sentence. They governed and the people obeyed their orders without question.

I was never one for minding orders.

“But … my platoon. I’m the only one qualified to lead them.” Surely there were other Cantati women they could convert into Breeders. Our numbers were not that horrible. In fact, we had made a comeback from last year’s dismal head count. The human population stood at more than thirty thousand by our last estimates. My expertise was needed in the field, not the bed chamber. What was the point of making a child if you could not protect him or her? Maybe if the Densare Council left the safe confines of the Compound once in a while they would see what their rulings mitigated.

“You are relieved of your command,” stated Amelia, the Coven Mother. Her blond hair flowed around her face as she rubbed the bulging ball in her abdomen. Iain, the Cantati Forces’ staunchest ally on the Council, nodded his balding head in agreement, toppling the other eleven from any disagreement. They all did their part for the continuation of the species. This was the Coven Mother’s fourth pregnancy, and I knew she was only half a dozen years older than I. Would that be me in a few years? On my fourth pregnancy, my body no longer fit to fight? I hated them for this.

“Do I even get to choose the lucky guy?” While I was far from being a prude, I would like a little input on which man I spread my legs for. Granted, the pool to select from was relatively small, and of that tiny selection, there were but a choice few whom I would prefer.

“The Council has already made the decision for you.” By the gods, of course they had. They decided everything for us mere mortals. Apparently, we were incapable of selecting our mates.

Who would they give me to? The Council had already taken away that which mattered most: my freedom. It wasn’t like I could use Synaptic Pathways Diversion to wiggle my way out of this one. The Coven Mother would smell a spell from me a mile away.

“Who?” My body clenched. Please let it be Luke or Quinten. With one of those two, I would at least get some measure of freedom, and I was certain if I played my cards right, it would go much better than I hoped.

“Cade, lieutenant of Blue Squad and General O’Hare’s second-in-command.”

Him? Over my dead body!

That behemoth had always watched me. He was a mountain of a man, a good soldier, and sadistic with a dash of insanity on the side. He liked killing demons for sport, and not just because the Densare ordered him to. He took pleasure in it, reveled in it, and even collected trophies from his kills. I had to submit my body to that. Kill me now. I would rather face a rampaging horde of Feronte demons, fireballs and all, than submit my body to Cade’s brutal ministrations.

Bloody hell, we would kill each other inside of a week.

“You may go now, Alana. You are to report to his chambers immediately.” The Coven Mother tapped her gavel, my prison bars slammed around me, and all before breakfast. So our first time would be in his room above ground, and not in mine? Better to get the baby-making underway as soon as possible, before the reality settled in and women in the barracks revolted from the constraints placed upon them.

I stomped out of the chamber. It was the only way I could respond without being tossed out of the Compound for good. One did not cross the Council and live to tell the tale, unless I preferred to take my chances in the Desert. And while I detested the thought of Cade having an all-access pass to my body, no one survived long in the Desert. It was what we called the land outside The Wall. Forty years ago, the Densare had commissioned a wall ten feet thick and a hundred feet tall with a ten-mile diameter with the Compound in the center. It had been constructed as a way to bar demons from entering our living quarters. Heavily guarded and fortified, the stone-and-steel wall protected us, guarded our doorstep. Every compound worldwide had a similar barrier. It was the only thing protecting us from complete extinction.

I had become the thing I had strived to avoid. In my heart, I had known this day would eventually arrive. It’s why I had cozied up to Zarek. But when he perished in a raid six months ago, I had prayed the persistent demon attacks would provide me with more time.

The tunnels of the Compound bulged with refugees. In the past week, our wall defense had been breached four times. Those living outside the Compound had retreated from their homes and were now living inside the already cramped quarters.

The Densare had expanded the tunnels in the underground labyrinth over the past eighty years. With more and more people requesting asylum within the Compound, the original building, which at one time had been called the Tower of London, had become insufficient. The walls had been expanded and reinforced to withstand demon raids. There were markers, doorways made of steel, fashioned into extra lines of defense. Should one level or area become infected, the door releases could be triggered and blown. I tapped on one set as I passed a room full of Breeders, all in varying stages of pregnancy. Some even held their bundles of joy in their arms. We must protect the future of our species.

That would be me soon. Forced to reside with the other pregnant women and children, no longer an individual but a vessel.

No way out. Cade and the Council were not known for their patience. Synaptic Pathways Diversion or SPD was out of the question. Any incantation that might actually work would likely be too much for me to handle. My expertise was in the field fighting, not the mystical woo-woo stuff the Coven did.

Stepping onto an elevator, I returned above ground and left the Council building, crossing the Tower Green to the barracks. The cloying aroma of cow dung and onions wafted on the misty evening. We used the Green for growing vegetables and housing the few animals we were able to spare from demon slaughter.

Ancient stone housed the Cantati Forces living quarters. Sitting four stories high and six stories deep, they led to a series of underground tunnels the Densare Council had built up as a last line of defense. Guards patrolled the grounds around the clock. Demons normally preferred attacking at night, although that hardly stopped Drystan and his minions from launching deadly assaults during the day.

I entered the barracks, closing the door behind me. With each footfall toward Cade’s room, my fate sealed itself. I was no longer an elite Cantati lieutenant and platoon leader, but a chattel good for nothing but birthing new Cantati into the world. The thought of bringing a child into the destruction that was mankind nauseated me. Until we fully beat back Drystan’s armies once and for all, it was irresponsible of us as a species to bring children into the world. They were too innocent, too small, and too bloody soft for this world.

I remembered all too well my shipboard journey as a child with my father from Maryland. The United States no longer existed. Seventeen years ago, our country had been overrun by swarms of demons in a night raid. It was the night my mother had been gutted by a Hatha demon. Survivors fled by ships to Compounds in other countries. The vessel my father and I boarded transported us to England. This Compound had housed close to ten thousand people when we arrived. In the seventeen years since, our losses had been substantial. Today, we had one thousand, one hundred and twelve inhabitants.

Cade’s quarters were located on the top floor of the barracks. It was a far cry from mine, housed five stories below ground, where it was more difficult for demons to reach. All women lived below ground, under Council law. It was an extra layer of protection. If demons infiltrated the main hub, they had floors of able-bodied men to rip to shreds before they discovered the women and children. Drystan’s war on us had rendered gender equality null and void. And yes, I would experience supreme pleasure in ridding the world of that monster.

I took the stairs two at a time. At the top, I noticed my hands shook. I wanted our initial mating over with that way I knew what to expect from him, rather than waiting for the event to occur, not that I had much say in the matter. If I had my way, I would not be submitting my body to anyone, unless I desired him.

Which I bloody well didn’t.

Soldiers stood at attention and saluted as I passed. I would miss that, the respect, the order, the camaraderie of my unit. They were my family. We had very few females in our ranks, and I never minded, not the rules I had to break to ascend the ranks nor the extra hours I had spent training to become a bigger badass than the rest of them. I liked that it made me unique among the Cantati. I adored the thrill of the hunt, of going out on patrol in the dead of night with men for whom I risked my life and vice versa. A simple ruling by the Council and my world vanished. The unfairness of it, that I was being forced to lose myself for the greater good, opened a deep well of sorrow in me, one I never liked to contemplate, and it would now consume me.

By the time I reached the fourth floor, my heart fluttered in my chest. My feet felt like they had bricks strapped to them as I marched toward Cade’s metal door. I did not want this man. I tasted bile at the thought of his body up against mine.

Clank, clank, clank.

My hand rapped against metal, and the invisible chains around me tightened. The door swung inward. Cade stood there, in all his six-foot-four glory, the white army-issue T-shirt stretched across a mountain of muscles. An inky black tribal tattoo started at his left elbow and disappeared under the strained confines of his shirt. His face had been carved from stone, all sharp angles and planes, his head shaved clean of hair save for the stubble of the goatee lining his angular jaw. His nose was no longer straight from a couple of breaks and sat slightly crooked on his otherwise handsome face. His eyes were liquid pools of darkness as they assessed me.

“Come in, Alana.” He said my name like a benediction. It’s not like men had a ton of opportunities for sex, not with the limited numbers of available females. Would he want to start right away or would he give me time? Not that it mattered—the Council had just presented me to Cade like an offering to a god.

Saying nothing, I crossed the threshold and shivered. His room was functional at best. A full-size bed, its linens precisely made. I considered it the bed of doom. At the foot of the bed stood a standard army chest that likely held any additional clothing and personal weapons. Traces of unease skittered down my spine. I could not let him see how much this bothered me. Would he take me now? Not that the timing mattered, it would happen, whether I wanted it to or not. Any other woman would be dancing for joy at the chance to bed him; I seemed to be built incorrectly and could not force myself to accept it. It’s not that I objected to him, per se, but to the idea that I was no longer in control of my own destiny. The Council had stripped me of my choices.

By the goddess, I surveyed the room further for weaponry and his trophies, of which I had now become one. I wished for my gun or one of my blades. I felt naked without them. A wooden nightstand rested near the bed and held a single lamp. To my left was a bookshelf, a door to a private bathroom, and a small table with two chairs. I wondered where he put his trophies, though that was a little bucket of crazy I did not wish to view any time soon. I had enough issues to deal with without including that freak show.

“Take a seat.” He gestured to the table, which held a bottle of clear liquid, probably the rotgut moonshine some of the guys were brewing, and two glasses. The breath I had not realized I held, expelled in a rush. He wouldn’t force me immediately. That was something at least. And a drink would take the edge off, even though that stuff burned a whole in your stomach. In fact, it might be better if I downed the bottle and was rendered unconscious for the festivities that were about to ensue.

I sat on the edge of the pinewood chair positioned next to the window. I had an escape route if needed. Granted, I would break both legs in the process, but it was an out, especially when I felt like a rat in a maze.

“Look, I’m not a monster, and I know this isn’t what you want.” He closed the door, sliding the deadbolt and locking us inside. Locking me in. I was not known for theatrics, but felt a swoon within reach. I hated enclosed spaces, and noticed my hands still shook.

“It’s not that, I …” I kept my fingers from clenching. I could not show weakness or he would swallow me whole in the process. Sweat rolled down between my shoulder blades.

Bloody hell. I had to chill out. It was just sex. I did not even need to fully participate, but could let him do his business and move on. It wouldn’t kill me. I might not enjoy it, but that was not the point.

He held up a hand. Pulled his chair out, turned it around and straddled it.

“But I will follow the orders of the Council. You belong to me. I won’t be cruel or force you tonight. I will give you today to become familiar with me before we consummate our union. I have a mission within the hour, but will visit you tomorrow evening. I will start visiting your room each night at an arranged time depending upon my mission schedule.” It didn’t sound like he liked that little tidbit, that he would be forced to come to my room. Except, the Council had decreed that women were to live below ground as a means of protection. So what he wanted didn’t matter. He still got to bed the General’s daughter, just not on his own terms.

BOOK: Ruptured: The Cantati Chronicles
9.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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