Rhyn Trilogy Book II.
Download Part I, Katie's Hellion
After leaving Rhyn three weeks earlier, Katie discovers the Immortals have no intention of releasing her, despite her pact with their chief. Rhyn learns that the only way he can protect her is if he accepts a place among the Immortals. Doing so, however, may mean he loses the only thing that matters. Demons, meanwhile, are closing in. And Death issues instructions for Katie to be disposed of. Pursued by Death's assassin and the demons, Katie has to choose between Hell or Death in order to save Rhyn from both.
The dream took shape as it did every night. Even when she knew she was dreaming, she couldn't wake herself up or shake the fear that this time, Rhyn wasn't going to come.
Katie stood between the assassin and the demon. Her choices were plain: Death or Hell. Bad or worse. Screwed or screwed. One of them was taking her to his underworld. The other would kill her. As the two stared each other down, she wasn't sure who had the better chance of winning: Gabriel, an Immortal sworn to serve Death, or Darkyn, the leader of all the demons in Hell.
Her hand went to her neck, where the name of her Ancient Immortal mate, Rhyn, had been until he broke their mating bond two days before. Desolation unlike anything she'd ever felt made her want to sink into the ground and stay there.
A shadow blocked the hot Caribbean sun, and she looked up to see Rhyn in his pterodactyl form circling above them. She gasped, hope racing through her as he dove toward the ground, switched to his human form in mid-air, and landed hard on the stony island's ground. He met her gaze, and her body bloomed with warmth in response to the possessive gaze that swept over her from head to foot before his eyes settled on the demon. Evaluating each other, the three creatures stood in tight silence before Rhyn spoke at last.
"What the f**k are you doing here, Darkyn?"
"Half-breed," the demon leader sneered. "Negotiating with Gabriel over who gets your former mate."
"Death ordered her dead-dead," Gabriel said. "And Death always wins."
"Brother, I'll kill you both if either of you tries to take her," Rhyn replied. "You have a contract on her, Gabe?" The assassin nodded. "Let me guess, Darkyn, the Dark One, ordered this."
"We'll just say he doesn't disagree with me."
"All right." Rhyn drew a knife from his boot. Katie watched, her optimism fading. "I'm challenging you, assassin, demon. You can have her when I'm dead."
"Rhyn, no!" she cried.
"I can handle it," he said.
"Rhyn-- " She started forward, and Gabriel held out an arm to block her. Furious and terrified, Katie planted both her hands on his arm to push it away with no success. "Back off, Gabriel. It's not like I can run anywhere!"
"Two minutes," he warned. "By Immortal Code, Darkyn and I are obligated to accept his challenge."
She hurried to Rhyn and stood looking up at him. His silver gaze was on his foes then dropped to her.
"This is the stupidest thing you've ever done," she said.
"Letting you go was the stupidest thing. I'm doing something right for once." The resolution in his face was unmistakable. He wasn't backing down. His eyes returned to the demon.
"They'll kill you," she whispered.
"If they do, go with Gabriel. Death's a bitch, but she's better than Hell."
Her eyes watered. She'd barely known what to do when he un-claimed her two days ago, but at least he was alive. If he left forever ...
"This isn't right," she said, her throat tightening. He looked down at her again, his gaze taking in her face. He cupped one cheek with his roughened hand and rubbed away a tear with his thumb.
"I'm not dead yet," he said, amused. She wrapped her arms around him, comforted by his scent and tormented it was the last time she'd smell him.
"Can't we just run away, right now? Turn into a bird and carry me with you?" she asked.
"Even if we did, they'd both come after us."
"You can go. I'd rather know you're safe than live without you."
"No, Katie," he said softly. "I know where I belong, and it's right here with you. I have to make things right. I couldn't live if I lost you."
"Katie," Gabriel called.
"Rhyn, I love you," she said.
"I know." He pulled away from her and pushed her hair from her face. With a tender kiss on her forehead, Rhyn stepped away. Gabriel drew a long sword, and Darkyn pulled two free. She felt cold from the inside out. The assassin motioned her over. She went woodenly, her stomach in turmoil.
"Break the bond, and Death will save you both. Rhyn will die-dead otherwise," Gabriel whispered then left her standing by a group of boulders. The words struck her as odd, but she had trouble concentrating when the men launched into a three-way battle.
Break the bond, and Death will free you both. She tried to decipher his meaning as she watched them fight, terrified to take her eyes off Rhyn. Rhyn already broke their bond, unless ... she had to break it, too.
Death would free them. Her death. She was the only one who had the power to end this before he died. Her attention turned to a different direction, the way she'd walked half an hour ago from the beach. She hesitated only a second more before she started running. She ran hard and left the sounds of the battle behind her, her thoughts on Rhyn and nothing else.
The distance to the beach was short in her dream, her body full of fear and adrenaline. She made it to the sand before being forced to slow to a walk by the ankle-deep, loose sand. Agonizing over how much time Rhyn had, she finally reached the water's edge and sucked in ragged breaths as she knelt for a moment of rest.
"Death will free us both." Heart hammering, she rose, took a deep breath, and waded into the warm water.
Trust my Gabriel, human, a woman's voice whispered into her mind. This is the only way.
Katie awoke sweating in her bed in the cavernous room to which she'd been exiled upon arriving to the Immortals' castle in the French Alps. The fire had died down, and someone had turned off the light to her bathroom, rendering the room completely dark. The dream had seemed so real. In it she had even recognized where they were: the Caribbean Sanctuary, where she'd been before coming here.
A movement from the balcony caught her attention.
"Another nightmare?" The voice of Gabriel was as dark as the room. He stood in front of the glass French doors of the balcony, taking up the whole space with his massive frame and heavy trench coat.
"Yeah," she whispered. "Every night." Her hand went to her neck, and she threw off the covers, crossing the cold stone floor to the bathroom. Flipping on the light, she confirmed the tattoos and Rhyn's name still circled her neck. He hadn't left her. She looked tiny and frightened in the large bathroom's mirror, and her gaze was drawn to the lumpy scar marring one arm. She rubbed it as she'd begun to do whenever she was upset.
"You okay?" Gabriel asked.
"Just making sure ..." he's still alive. She couldn't finish her thought in front of him, partly because it made no sense and partly because she didn't want to admit her soul felt Rhyn's absence like the draft from a cracked window on a winter's night.
"You ever find it odd you feel comfortable waking up to find me here?" Gabriel asked.
She rolled her eyes at his twisted sense of humor, which normally teetered on lethal. As Death's best assassin, Gabriel wasn't the type of person anyone ever wanted to run into, let alone when awaking in a dark room after a nightmare.
"I want the light on, Gabriel," she said.
He shook his head. "I don't like it, and you'll have bad dreams either way," he reasoned.
"Makes me feel safer."
"Nothing safer than hanging out with someone who can't be killed."
"Gabriel," she chastised. She left the bathroom light on and returned to her bed, chilled by the drafty chamber that was now hers. It had the combined square footage of every apartment she'd ever rented. It was cold and large, not the kind of place she'd ever choose to live.
"Mama!" Toby's grumpy voice drew her gaze toward the small bedroom whose door was near the bathroom. She'd stopped gritting her teeth whenever he called her that and-- God help her!-- she'd even started responding.
The five-year-old angel, whose appearance in her life several weeks ago plunged her into the Immortal underworld, squeezed through the cracked door. He trudged across the bedroom, climbing into bed with her without asking.
"Toby, you're too old to be sleeping in my bed," she said. He ignored her and snuggled deep beneath the covers. If not for the nightmares, she'd carry him back to his bed, whether or not he liked it, but she found some comfort in having the angel so close. Despite her efforts to stay awake, she fell into restless sleep again.
Her alarm clock woke her at dawn, reminding her it was time for her morning run. She turned it off and eased out of bed, stopping to gaze out the French doors. Verdant forests stretched to the steely sky, a swath of green, brown, and grey. Uneasy after her dream, she dressed in running clothes and padded out of the room. Gabriel was gone and Toby still sleeping.
She walked through the castle quickly, not liking the quiet, and emerged into a courtyard leading to an expansive cobblestone driveway. The courtyard bordered a small grassy park off which several trails ran from the grassy area into the still dark woods.
Her running partner, Ully, wasn't there. She shook out her arms and stretched, cold in the early morning air. The trails appeared muddy even from the distance and the air smelled of snow.
She heard the soft step of someone approaching and turned, surprised. Her mate, Rhyn, stood in heavy boots, running pants, and a tank top. Relief trickled through her to see him alive. His snow cloud-colored eyes were piercing, his muscular frame making her warm from the inside out. The tank top displayed his thick biceps and shapely shoulders. If she stepped just an inch closer, she'd feel his body heat.
"Ully's not coming," he said.
"Why not?" she asked, disappointed. Her morning run was the only moment of peace she would have during the day.
"I saw your dream."
"You're not supposed to be in my head."
He said nothing.
"Are you running with me?" she asked.
Her gaze went to the sky again as she recalled the nightmare. She'd been avoiding him for the same reason her dream revealed: she might just care too much about him to leave when the time came for her to go. The sense of loss from her dream returned, and she was embarrassed to feel her throat tightening.
"I haven't seen you since we arrived," she said. "Are you in the dungeon with the rest of the warriors?"
"Do you wanna run or not?" he asked.
"Are you really running in boots?"