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Authors: Alysh Ellis

WarriorsApprentice

BOOK: WarriorsApprentice
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Warrior’s Apprentice

Alysha Ellis

 

Combat-hardened
Dvallin warrior Tybor has no room in his life for softness or sentiment. His
job is to train the soldiers who stand between his people and destruction. He
instantly despises Huon, his newest recruit, dismissing him as weak. But Huon
is determined to prove his worth. He accepts all the challenges Tybor throws at
him, passing every test, until Tybor finds himself waging his own battle
against his growing attraction to his apprentice warrior.

When Tybor
discovers Huon is to be sent on a suicide mission to the human world, to
infiltrate and destroy enemy headquarters by seducing Judie, the enemy’s
weapons expert, he cannot let him go alone. Their ménage-a-trois seduction works
as planned but Tybor is threatened by the emotions the passionate relationship
triggers. He tries to deny the feelings Judie and Huon arouse in him while they
flee their pursuers in a deadly race for survival.

To have a hope for
the future, the master must bury his old prejudices and let himself learn from
the warrior’s apprentice.

 

Warrior’s Apprentice

Alysha Ellis

 

Chapter One

 

Tybor folded his arms across his heavily muscled chest,
spread his legs wide and ran his gaze over the slender young man in front of
him. He let his lip curl into a sneer and turned to speak over his shoulder to
the captain of the guard.

“I work with Dvalinn warriors, not weakling schoolboys.”

The captain stepped forward to stand next to the young man
he’d brought down to Tybor’s rooms.

“Huon’s an adult, Tybor, and he’s passed every assessment
with flying colors.”

Tybor snorted and his voice, already deep, dropped even
lower. “You called me away from a training session to discuss this? Look at
him,” he scoffed. “He’s as lily-white and green as a snowdrop. A strong breeze
would break him.”

The boy—Tybor refused to call him a man—lifted his head and
their gazes met.

“I don’t have to be three feet wide across the shoulders to
be strong. I can do anything you need me to do.”

Eyes narrowed, hands on hips, Tybor glared at the boy.
Generations of hardened soldiers had quailed under that fierce look. The boy
stared right back, blue eyes wide, his gaze open, hands clenched lightly by his
sides.

“You’re supposed to be the best,” he said.

The captain nodded at Huon. “He is.” Then he turned back to
Tybor. “Huon is unique among the Dvalinn. We
need
him and we need him
battle ready.” He lifted one brow and asked, “Are you telling me you
can’t
do it?”

Dust and sweat stained Tybor’s combat pants. “I can train
him. Whether he can handle it is a different matter.” He returned his attention
to the boy. “If you work with me you will work harder than you ever have
before. You will do whatever I tell you, whenever and however I tell you. No
arguments, no questions, no rest. If you so much as falter, you’re done. Do you
understand?”

The boy didn’t blink. “Yes.”

“Yes,
sir
,” Tybor snapped.

The boy hesitated.

“At once.”

”Yes, sir.” Although the words were correct, the edge of defiance
the boy used robbed them of any deference or subservience. His shoulders
remained square, firm and unmoving.

The captain touched his cap in a silent salute and left the
room, pulling the door shut behind him.

Tybor took a step forward. He picked up the boy’s arm,
pushed his baggy shirt up, wrapped his fingers around his forearm and squeezed.
Silken ivory skin covered a layer of surprisingly firm muscle. The boy’s smooth
flesh burned against Tybor’s hand. He released him and stepped back, resisting
the urge to clutch his tingling palm to his chest.

“Do you understand what we do? What
I
do?”

The boy’s gaze sharpened and his eyes glittered. “You train
Dvalinn warriors to go into the humans’ world, to destroy those who seek to
obliterate our kind.”

Tybor nodded. “We are at war. And humans have weapons the
Dvalinn cannot and will not use.”

For the first time uncertainty and confusion clouded the
boy’s blue eyes. “Humans and the Dvalinn are from the same stock. How did we
come to be at war?”

Tybor’s lips tightened. “Ask a historian. My job is to train
warriors.”

The boy’s brows lifted. “Warriors who kill humans?”

Tybor shook his head. “We don’t kill all humans. Only
Gatekeepers. Most surface dwellers don’t know we exist. But the Gatekeepers
know. Know us and hate us and have sworn to kill as many of our kind as they
can. Dvalinn
warriors,”
Tybor laced the word with the scorn he felt for
the boy in front of him, “come here to learn the skills they need to stop
them.”

“Have you trained many of them personally…sir?” This time
the tacked-on word sounded more respectful, less of a challenge.

“Too many.” Pain he refused to give in to gripped Tybor.
“Men—stronger, older, wiser than you will ever be. Each one trains for as long
as it takes to perfect his abilities and send him out into the world to do
battle.” Tybor poked a finger toward Huon’s narrow chest. “Most of them never
return. This is not a job for the weak, when even the strong do not survive.”

“But you survived, sir. Your battles are legendary.” Color
rose in Huon’s cheeks, flushing the ivory a delicate rose-pink.

Tybor’s breath stilled and he looked over the boy’s head.
“Legendary because they happened so long ago. For almost five hundred years I
have trained young men to do what I’m no longer permitted to.” He turned his
back on Huon and picked up the envelope the captain had left on the bench seat
of a weight-training machine. “I need to know your assignment, to see if it’s
possible to get you even halfway ready.” He ran a finger under the flap of the
envelope.

Huon stepped forward and stretched to look over Tybor’s
shoulder.

Tybor spun around. His hand shot out, slamming the boy to
the ground before he knew what was coming. Tybor hit hard, not caring if he
hurt him. If he couldn’t cut it, better to know it now before he made a pretty,
pale, useless corpse.

“You only move if and when I tell you to,” he growled. “Drag
your ass back up and stand at attention.”

He glanced at the kid. Blood ran down his cheek from a cut
over his forehead but he didn’t wipe it away or show any sign he’d noticed. This
one
might
be worth the trouble of training.

“From this moment on, you don’t walk, eat, take a piss or
breathe
unless I give you the fucking order. Is that clear?”

“Yes, sir.”

Tybor pulled out the papers and read. The printed words,
clear and unambiguous, felt like lead weights on his shoulders.

The boy remained at attention, showing no sign of submission
or fear. Maybe it would be better if he had. A coward wouldn’t last through
Tybor’s harsh training regime, and if he couldn’t finish the training, he
couldn’t be sent on the mission described in the papers Tybor clutched in his
hand. He raised his eyes and studied the young man in front of him. From the
moment the chief of staff had signed these orders, Huon—beautiful, reed-slender,
confident Huon—had joined the ranks of the dead.

* * * * *

Huon lifted his aching leg, lurched forward, then slammed
his foot onto the ground. A wet strand of hair slapped against his forehead,
hitting his eyes, salt sweat stinging and burning. He didn’t dare to lift a
weary hand to push it away. The caustic residue of explosives darkened his
skin, a shadow no amount of sweat or washing fully removed. He’d forgotten that
a moment earlier, brushed his palm across his forehead and paid the price. Vision
already shaky from tiredness had blurred when the chemical burned the soft
mucous membranes.

He stumbled over an unseen rock and fell, cutting his hand
open, adding blood to the acrid mixture. He pushed himself upright and
continued running. He would never give Tybor the satisfaction of being right
about him. He would die before he broke, die before he asked for rest.

“Again!” the voice Huon had grown to dread shouted into his
pain-dazed mind. “Again.”

He tried to gather the energy he needed. Tried to remember
the complicated procedures, the choreographed movements. His feet slowed.

“Keep running! If you stop, you’re vulnerable. Humans cast
metal into knives and guns. They use them against each other and a Gatekeeper
will use them against
you
. He’ll kill you where you stand.”

Tybor’s orders—after two solid, relentless weeks, a constant
part of his life, whether awake or in the nightmarish dreams that haunted his
brief snatches of sleep—jerked Huon into motion again. He reached into the
lined pocket of his combat fatigues, pulled out another handful of the
chemicals secreted there, clenched his fist around them and squeezed.

When he felt the compression start the chemical reaction and
the heat build to the right painful level, he leapt into the air, twisted
around and hurled the ball of energy at the target Tybor had set up for him.
Huon felt the burn as the fireball exploded soundlessly, but he didn’t look
back to check the accuracy of his aim. Tybor had broken him of that habit in
the first ten minutes of training.

Instead he let his momentum carry him through the 360-degree
turn, running again before he hit the ground. His body ached for respite, but
without Tybor’s permission to stop he had to drive himself on. He closed his
eyes against the sting and forced his feet to move, one in front of the other,
over and over again.

He slammed up against a solid wall and staggered back as two
strong hands reached out to hold him steady.

“You hit the target spot on. Take a break.”

Exhausted muscles sagged and Huon dropped. Only Tybor’s iron
grip on his upper arms held him upright. Tybor turned him, pulled him in
against his hard, brown body, slid his arm across Huon’s shoulders, propped him
up.

“Lean on me.”

Huon shuddered. More than anything he wanted Tybor’s respect,
wanted to show him how wrong he’d been in his first assessment of him. He
started to pull away but Tybor held him in place with no more than a flex of
his muscles.

“Knowing when to accept help is also a survival skill.”

Tybor lowered him to the ground in the shade of a tree.
“You’re hot and that white skin of yours will burn if you stay out in the sun
too long.”

Huon looked up at the branches moving in the slight breeze
and nodded. Tybor had been right when he’d said training in the Underworld of
the Dvalinn could never replicate real-life, human-world conditions. He still
hadn’t adjusted to all the extra things he had to beware of on the surface and
they hadn’t even begun training for his specific insertion point. He leaned
back and let the crisp pine fragrance wash over him, clearing away the stench
of sweat and explosive.

Tybor squatted down beside him. “Your face and shoulders are
red. Severe sunburn could draw attention to you, destroy your cover, get you
killed.” He leaned his folded arms against his knees and studied Huon. “You
need something to protect you against UV light.”

He stood up, his powerful thighs lifting him in a
surprisingly graceful movement for one so tall and muscular.

The air around him shimmered. When it steadied, nothing
remained but the distant blue of the sky and the sunlit emptiness of the
clearing in the upper-world forest Tybor had brought them to.

Alone, Huon rubbed his aching legs and let out a moan he
would never have uttered in front of Tybor. He never wanted Tybor to think he
could not maintain the pace Tybor set. The man represented everything Huon had
ever wanted to be—strong, efficient, beautiful in body and movement, his brown
skin sleek over powerful muscles. Huon wanted his respect, wanted Tybor to see
him as a warrior, needed to know he valued the determination of one skinny,
pale-skinned Dvalinn misfit.

No one had ever mattered to Huon more than the stubborn,
demanding superior officer he would do anything to please. With his memory
replaying visions of Tybor’s toned body pacing him through his training,
pushing him to exhaustion, Huon rolled over, pillowed his head on his folded
arms, filled his nostrils with the scent of pine needles, closed his aching
eyes and drifted off to sleep.

 

He awoke to the cool slide of lotion on his shoulders
applied by hard, flat palms. Huon took a breath, concentrating on keeping the
rhythm slow and steady, mimicking the regular inhalations of sleep. If Tybor
knew he was awake everything would change. And right now, Huon wanted that incongruously
gentle touch to continue, although he didn’t understand the mixture of
apprehension, comfort and something new—exciting and frightening—sizzling to
life under the stroke of Tybor’s calloused hand.

The cold rush of more lotion dripping onto his shoulders
almost made him flinch but he called on the discipline Tybor had taught him and
remained motionless. One finger swirled in the puddle then emerged to stroke
lightly down the hollow of his spine. Nothing could prevent the shiver that
rippled under Huon’s skin.

Tybor leapt up and backward. Knowing he could no longer
feign unconsciousness, Huon rolled over. A tube of sunblock hurtled onto his
chest, landing with a sharp slap.

“Put this on. And get back to training.”

Huon nodded. He squeezed the tube and rubbed the cream into his
shoulders. It seemed wiser not to acknowledge that his reddened skin glistened
with the residue of the lotion already there. If Tybor could pretend that soft
touch had never happened, so could he.

For the rest of the day, Tybor pushed him, forcing him to
extend his limits, to go beyond what he thought he could endure. All that kept
him from screaming, from giving in and accepting his weakness, was the sight of
Tybor running alongside him, performing every task he set for Huon—harder,
faster, stronger.

Only at the setting of the sun did Tybor call a halt. When
they returned to their cavern in the Underworld, Tybor sat him down and fired
round after round of questions about human habits and weapons, repeated over
and over again until Huon knew he could recite them in his sleep…assuming he
ever got any. Grid positions of portals back to the Dvalinn Underworld and maps
of human cities floated in geometric patterns behind his eyelids every time
they drooped closed.

His shoulders slumped and he made himself straighten and
answer the same set of questions all over again. Darkness surrounded him and he
realized his eyelids had dropped again. He blinked—once, twice—and grimaced
with the effort of keeping them raised. Across from him sat Tybor, his arms
folded, mouth set in a grim line, hard brown eyes glaring at him as if
he
was never weak enough to need anything like sleep. “I don’t care how bad you
feel. What are you training for?” Tybor snapped.

“To battle the Gatekeepers.” The words tumbled out, slurred
together by routine and fatigue.

BOOK: WarriorsApprentice
11.7Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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