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Her name is Ravyn. Black-onyx eyes swirl jade and sapphire; fear nothing stance and commanding presence hold the attention of all. The moment Kyle D'Arcy notices this striking woman hidden in shadow, he knows she's involved with secrets he's desperate to unearth.
Kyle's search plunges him into a nightmare fraught with lethal diseases — where allies may also be a force to fear. Ravyn proves to be his savior. But as the battle against an adversary set on destroying humanity spins wildly into the unknown, will he become hers?
The Unseen Excerpt:
Guilt festered in Carter's chest and squeezed droplets of sweat from his deeply creased brow. He paced the length of his desk, hardly aware of the newborn morning outside his basement office. He’d spent the night here, not cuddled with his wife in their bed, not wanting to disturb her with his tossing and turning.
The executive chair squeaked under his weary body when he lowered into its comfort again. He inhaled deeply to gather his ragged thoughts and stared at the crisp and empty page centered on the polished desktop. He couldn't decide how much to tell Kyle all at once. In his attempts to protect Kyle, he had buried so many truths. Truths Kyle would now have a hard time comprehending and accepting.
Favorite pen in hand, Carter carefully formed words to express his miserable feelings as best he could. He kneaded the fingers of his left hand against his temple and bit back grief and regret. Finally, he signed his name, the ballpoint pen scratched from the intense pressure and made the only sound in the stuffy room. Carter glanced over his new creation then stacked the note on top of other papers, papers revealing secrets he had spent half his life trying to forget and had never before dared to document.
Thunder grumbled, barely audible in the dim basement office. Carter glanced to the window above the rows of old filing cabinets and through the frosted contact paper he had smoothed over the glass weeks before. He expected to see the darkness of an approaching storm, but only the diffused glow of developing sunlight shined in the sky. He stared at the glass.
Icy dread filled him to his core and shook loose fear long dormant in his memories. The tremor in his fingers grew stronger. He knew the strange rumble, knew what it meant. The words of The Lord's Prayer fell from his lips.
A dark silhouette grew behind the glass. The outline shimmered and strengthened, only to disappear a moment later.
Had Rhynon found him? If so, Kyle was about to be dumped into a vat of vicious danger to fend for himself. Kyle had no chance of surviving the fight, not as clueless as Carter had managed to keep him.
Carter brushed his face with his quivering hands. He had made so many mistakes, terrible mistakes. His stupidity had cost lives and would no doubt cost many more if not an entire species. In his shame, Carter hid the very facts needed to keep his family, his world, safe from horrors he created under Sovereign Chione's orders.
The shadow returned to the window, darker, closer. They were coming.
Carter stuffed papers and envelopes into a manila packet, fumbled with the desk drawers, and hid it as best he could. His only hope now was for Kyle to find the pages and letters. Maybe then he would have a chance at survival. Carter no longer had one.
The wheels of his chair growled against the earthy green tiles when he shoved back from the desk. He couldn't be caught in this house. He had to lure them away from his home and his still sleeping wife so she wouldn't hear whatever they had planned for him.
Through the game room, he crept, around the pool table and plush burgundy chairs and into the darkest side of the basement. Raw fear plucked his every nerve and quickened his movements. He paused in the shadows and considered hiding among them, but he knew better. They knew where he was. They wouldn't stop hunting and killing until they found him.
Carter stepped around the water heater and furnace. The faint odor of must tingled in his nose. He moved to the rarely used stairwell and brushed away brittle leaves caught in the clutches of sticky cobwebs. The rusted hinges creaked when he pushed the heavy door up to reveal a pale sky full of crisp sunlight. It would be the last sunrise he saw.
He climbed the wooden steps and cursed the frailty of his legs. He had once been a strong man, insistent on fitness and health, striving for longevity of life. Now he was weak from the months of stress, months of mind numbing research and study. Months of righting wrongs he'd done. But he had found it, the vaccine that could save so many. Many, except him.
Carter dashed across the small, side yard on quaking knees. He glanced from right to left for the hunters. He listened for their cries, but none came. Cold dew soaked the toes of his loafers. The green of the trimmed grass and hedges seemed brighter somehow, and the pastel blue of the east sky appeared truer than he ever remembered. He soaked up every detail, hoping to capture and keep the vision of beauty into death.
A shadow flashed at the corner of his eye.
Carter whirled to face the person only to find the waist high hedges, nothing more. But someone waited there. Carter was familiar with the shadows one would see but then doubt when a source couldn't be confirmed. He had learned all about them in the other world. He scanned the low hedge and red brick shed. A trickle of sweat streaked down his temple.
He hurried over the neighbor's yard to the concrete sidewalk, savoring the slightly bitter taste of the cold air. Red leaves, fallen from Japanese maple trees along the street, crunched under his steps. He did not try to hide now. There was no use in it.
Breaths huffed and footsteps pounded. The sounds closed in on him. Carter did not look behind now. The faint touch of fingertips or weapons twisted in his mind. How they would kill him, he did not know. He prayed it wouldn't be through torture. He'd suffered so much torture already.
He had lost Alana years ago, so long ago her beauty and devoted heart seemed nothing more than a dream of an angel, but then her daughter had appeared on his doorstep. Alana's angelic features shined in Ravyn, and the hurt Carter felt in learning of Alana's suffering and demise had rekindled old regrets and crushed his spirit. He wondered now if he would ever see Alana again, if maybe she waited somewhere to greet him, maybe this day. She had been a woman of unquavering faith. She had believed they would one day reunite as friends in a safer place.
Carter concentrated on the empty street ahead of him and continued to draw his pursuers as far from the house and Beverly as he could. He had taken Beverly as his wife shortly after saying goodbye to Alana. He did love Beverly with all his heart, had done his best to care for her as she had for him and for Kyle. Now he feared he would cost Beverly her life. And Kyle was caught in the middle again. Carter had managed to keep Kyle hidden as a baby, called him Son.
Kyle couldn't stay hidden any longer, though. He was a young man, a man who knew nothing of his true legacy.
The alley leading to Front Street came into view. Carter eyed it, the long shadows cast down by the buildings, the brittle leaves clicking on the asphalt as the wind tumbled them. He wanted to reach the main avenue.
He jogged into the narrow alley. Maybe if he managed to reach the busier road there would be witnesses. Maybe he could still bring things out into the open so Kyle would learn what he needed to survive.
A towering form stepped before Carter. He slid to an instant stop and stared up into the poorly lit face. The alley had been a stupid way to turn. It was yet another brainless decision in a long chain of decisions.
The barrel of a large pistol appeared in the claw-like hand. Black, stone eyes with jade swirls narrowed a bit. Dark hair, threaded with gold, topped the blunt brow. Carter's lungs slammed shut and deprived him of the air he needed to control his haggard thoughts. He knew this creature, knew what genetics pulsed in its veins. Complete misery gripped him. What he had done had been so wrong. It seemed pure justice for Rhynon to cast the final blow.
Carter eyed the gun and felt fortunate. Rhynon would show him mercy with a quick death. Carter doubted Chione would receive the same courtesy, nor did he wish her mercy for she never showed any toward another.
"Hello, Carter," Rhynon said. His voice grumbled from his inhumanly broad chest. "You don't look surprised to see me."
Carter couldn't stop the tremors now. His fingers twitched, his heart quivered behind his ribs. With this man here, everyone he loved was in danger. And nothing he could do would stop it.
Rhynon grabbed Carter's spine at the base of his skull and wrenched his head backward. For one short second, Carter thought Rhynon would tear vertebrae from his flesh. Pain radiated through him and numbed his arms and legs.
"You expected me." Rhynon smiled but the action only seemed to harden his eyes. "I thought she was here. Now I know where to find her."
"I don't know who you speak of." Carter’s voice grated with pain, but he hoped he could conceal more truths, this time to save lives. "I've been warned by no one."
Rhynon huffed. His large Adam's apple rose with his deep chuckle and he slammed the gun across Carter's jawbone. Bright sparks swirled in Carter's vision. Cold metal pressed to his temple until he could feel his flesh squeeze into the hollow barrel.
"You've never been good with lies, old man. Best you stop trying."
Carter heard the trigger slide.
He prayed Kyle could be saved, prayed his research and findings wouldn't fall to Rhynon, prayed someone could undo the damage he caused.
The explosion sliced through him and ended his silent pleas.