Rapture’s Edge 2
VEILED Chapter One
‘He smiled, a knowing smile, full of wickedness and intent….’ from VEILED
Welcome to VEILED Chapter One. Below you’ll find the entire first chapter of VEILED!
For more information and buy links, go here!
Veiled is part of my Guardians of Ascension series and continues the journey of Rachel and Duncan and the black ops team of Second Earth. In many ways, each episode is a standalone story, but reading the series in order is highly recommended.
Endelle and Luken, from the original series published by St. Martin’s Press, are featured prominently in the Rapture’s Edge saga and each will finally find love as the series unfolds.
~ ~ ~
Excerpt from Chapter One: VEILED
The Continuing Saga of
~ 2 ~
By Caris Roane
She walks beneath a bright cloud
Hidden from all who would know her
Waiting for the unveiling
She sees him coming
A blond god of ancient Norse worlds
His arm bears a righteous sword
His eyes are lit with a holy fire
Come, she whispers
Lift the veil and know who I am
Collected Poems, by Beatrice of Fourth
Duncan Wallace held his wrecker shotgun in both hands, knees bent, sweating like a madman. He knew if he didn’t take down the next Third grid warrior to come along, he’d be dead. He had only one advantage: Wreckers didn’t see him as any kind of threat.
But where the hell was the rest of his team? They’d been running a standard grid-entry drill through the portal Merl had in his private residence. Merl had been hoping to lock onto a location on Third Earth he thought might work as a base camp for the black ops team. He’d just fired up his wrist scanner when Duncan had gotten swept somewhere else in the grid.
He didn’t know what happened. One minute, he’d been standing next to Rachel and Merl, listening to the distant rumbling of wrecker warriors and waiting for them to appear. The next, he felt a soft vibration and now he was here.
He suspected Yolanthe, a Third Earth princess, was somehow involved. She’d held him in a trance for two weeks trying to bring him completely under her control. If she’d somehow found his grid signature and locked on, she could have gotten him away from the other two members of his team. But if that was true, why didn’t she simply bring him straight to her?
Unless she wasn’t in the grid yet. She may have moved him through an external grid operator.
Sweet Christ, he was in trouble.
He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths, as he tried to figure out what had happened and what to do next.
He reached out with his senses and focused on Yolanthe. Seconds passed, each one like a drumbeat inside his head.
The former mind-link he’d shared with Yolanthe had left a residual sense of her. He could feel the woman now, which meant if she hadn’t been in the grid before, she was now. Fortunately, she was still pretty far away.
He had time, then, but not much.
He opened his eyes and glanced around. So, where was he?
Unlike Merl, he didn’t have a wrist scanner, a device capable of tracking other people once inside the grid, as well as establishing a location. Only those with Third Earth powers could use it and Duncan hadn’t reached Third level. For weeks now, he’d been stuck. He might have achieved Warrior of the Blood status on Second Earth, but he still couldn’t access his Third gifts.
He wasn’t alone since the rest of the black ops team had failed to advance as well, including Luken.
Basically, they were fucked.
He pressed himself up against the darkening grid wall, forcing himself to stay calm. At least he didn’t hear the familiar distant rumbling of the wreckers. For the moment he was safe.
He contacted Rachel telepathically, wondering if he’d even be able to reach her within the grid. Rachel, are you there?
Duncan, thank God. I’m still with Merl, but we don’t know how we got split up. He’s using the grid scanner to try to locate you. What happened?
I felt a faint vibration and now I’m alone, though still in the grid. Has to be Yolanthe and I have a sense of her presence, but she’s not close, at least not yet.
Hang tough. We’re on it.
From the time he’d broken his mind-link with Yolanthe, she’d been working hard to pin him down and bring him back under her control. She wanted him to lead her to Rapture’s Edge, though at this point he had no idea where or what it was. Although, he knew in his gut he had to find Rapture’s Edge first if Second Earth was to survive its current state of war. The mythical place had the ability to enhance power to an astronomical level. The one who acquired a vast increase in ability could rule two worlds, which left Duncan and his team with one major goal: to keep the bad guys on Third from taking possession of Rapture’s Edge.
He glanced at the opposite, semi-opaque grid walls. Images flew by, reflecting the ever-shifting property of the darkening as well as various places on Third Earth. Sometimes deep red flames would appear followed by a stretch of ocean, forest, desert, or cities, then more flames.
The darkening was one of the mysteries of the ascended dimensions, a place ‘between’, something occurring in each of the five worlds above Mortal Earth.
Third Earth ascenders had built a grid to form a structure through the darkening, making travel through it possible for most ascenders. The fluctuating aspect of this part of nether-space, however, meant he didn’t know where he would land if he tried to leave. Though he could blow a hole in the grid wall with his wrecker shotgun, he could easily fall into a wall of fire and be killed instantly.
The darkening required finesse as well as Third Earth power. Neither quality was in his current wheelhouse.
A distant rumbling set another powerful burst of adrenaline plowing his veins. Wreckers.
Rachel, tell Merl to hurry. I’ve got bad guys on my ass.
Remaining in place with his shotgun hidden behind his right leg, he let his preternatural power flow from his wing-locks, up his back, and down his right arm. Once the flow of energy connected with his wrecking shotgun, he could take on a grid wrecker.
A blast from another part of the grid blew a hole in the wall twenty feet distant and brought Duncan face to face with a wrecker. He was a typical Third Earth Militia Warrior, wearing a black leather kilt and maroon battle harness. Three long braids hung on either side of his face.
With a confident smile, he spoke into his com at his shoulder. “I’ve got him, Your Highness.”
Yep, Yolanthe was here.
The wrecker smiled.
The split-second the charge flowed over Duncan’s weapon, he pivoted, brought his weapon into the open and lifted it to his shoulder.
The wrecker mouthed the words ‘oh shit’, his brows high as Duncan fired both barrels.
The blast cut the warrior in two and spread his internals over a ten-foot radius. The smell alone was enough to make his stomach curl into a knot.
Plucking two more specialized cartridges from a chest-strap, he reloaded. The sound of additional boots slamming against the grid floor and coming from the same direction as the initial wrecker set his heart into over-drive.
Rachel, he shouted telepathically.
Still here. Merl says he’s almost got your location and to get moving.
He turned away from the running feet and while recharging through his wings once more, and gripping his weapon hard, he began to run along the grid in the opposite direction. With any luck, Merl or Rachel would pick up his signal and come to him.
His heart hammered in his ears, the sound like an automatic weapon firing. With his left hand, he wiped sweat from his forehead.
Talk about a nightmare.
I’m on the move, he sent.
I can tell, Rachel returned, each word tense as though she was running right alongside him. Merl just nodded to me. We’ve got you on the scanner as well as Yolanthe. She’s not far from you. But keep running. Movement helps. We’ll fold from our position within fifty yards of your forward trajectory.
Suddenly, Duncan could sense Yolanthe’s presence like a wave of heat in front of him. And his wrecking gun wouldn’t be able to stop her. The woman had power.
Rachel, she’s close now.
We’ve folded to position and I can hear you running. Keep going. You won’t be able to see us because I’ve got Merl shielded.
But Yolanthe materialized, cutting off his path only a dozen feet away from him.
He came to a halt, almost falling into a roll because of his momentum. Shit. She’s right in front of me.
He tried to fold down the hall, as far as he could see, but Yolanthe lifted a hand and a surge of her power prevented him from moving.
I’m coming to you, Rachel sent, and I’ll use my shield. Merl will hold his current position since he has a location set for Militia Warrior HQ on Two. He’s getting ready to blow the grid wall, but our timing will be tight.
He wanted to respond to Rachel, but Yolanthe had already invaded his mind with her entrancing abilities.
Merl had told Duncan repeatedly he’d need a Third Earth grayle power to fend her off. But Duncan hadn’t yet been able to access it. For a man supposed to have the power to locate Rapture’s Edge, Duncan fell woefully short. He searched within the center of his being for a hint of the grayle power, but found nothing.
Instead, he became painfully dizzy as he stared into the woman’s pale blue eyes.
Princess Yolanthe had on oddly serene presence as she returned his gaze. “I found you again, Duncan.” She held out her arms to him and the dizziness in his head thickened. “Come to me. I’ve missed you and we have incredible plans to forge together. Come.”
She was beautiful in a strange way. A dark purple gloss covered her lips in sickly contrast to her milky white skin. She wore her red hair in at least two dozen thin braids wrapped haphazardly around her head. She looked the same as a month ago when he’d last seen her, wearing a long gown of violet silk to the floor.
Holding his gaze, she added a pressure within his mind, her power beginning to sink deeper and deeper. If she continued, she’d forge another mind-link with him and he’d be lost forever.
“We’ll complete our journey together, Duncan. And I’ll forgive you everything, I promise.”
He began moving toward the woman completely against his will and each of his battle sandals felt weighed down as if covered in cement. The pounding of feet behind him let him know a new squad of wreckers had just arrived, no doubt part of Yolanthe’s army, to back her up. He couldn’t fight them and he couldn’t resist her. If Rachel didn’t get to him soon, he was done for.
Yolanthe was ten feet away. Nine … Eight …
With what little strength he had left, he called for help. Rachel. Trouble.
He was about to ask, ‘For what’. But the next moment he was flying backward and Rachel was on top of him, her protective energy shield vibrating over them both. At the same moment, the deadly trance-like sensations vanished.
“Fire!” He heard Yolanthe shout. She wanted him alive, but if she couldn’t have him, she’d kill him to keep him out of the hands of other Third ascenders.
On instinct, Duncan rolled Rachel toward the grid wall as wrecker guns exploded the floor where they’d just been. Holding Rachel tight, he then folded her within the corridor well beyond Yolanthe. And at the exact moment he slipped into nether-space, Yolanthe’s wreckers fired into the side walls of the grid. If he hadn’t gotten them out of there, they would have both been dead.
Held within Rachel’s shield, he gauged the next distance he could take her and landed them down the darkening corridor another thirty feet. Within the grid, he could only fold the distance he could see. If he tried to transport them without seeing a destination, they could end up outside the darkening and anywhere on Third Earth.
He glanced down the corridor. Where’s Merl?
She smiled, then drew out of his arms. This way.
When she took off running, he kept pace. More feet sounded on the grid floor behind them, pounding hard in pursuit. The corridors were curved and branched off at least every twenty yards, a true grid. Rachel kept them moving fast.
Merl’s around the next turn. He felt her shift her telepathic communication and knew she was talking to Merl. When her voice returned to him, she said, He’s blasting the grid wall in three … two … one.
The sound of Merl’s wrecking gun arrived at the same moment he caught sight of Merl. He felt Rachel’s shield disintegrate.
“Good. You’re here,” Merl shouted. “Move it. We’ve only got a few seconds.”
Duncan reached for Rachel’s shoulder and once he made contact, he did a quick fold, taking Rachel to Merl’s position. The grid wall wavered as all three of them jumped through the opening.
They landed in the desert at Apache Junction Two, right outside HQ. The rest of the team was there waiting, each of them tense and facing the gaping grid hole, shotguns in hand, all except for Luken.
The leader of the black ops team sat in the dirt at a distance, his face pale, his wings busted.
Duncan jumped to his feet and brought his shotgun to his shoulder. His wing-power still flowed up his back and down his arm, charging his weapon. He listened for the faint rumbling sound of an imminent wrecker assault, but the grid was quiet until finally the shattered wall began to fade then disappear.
It was over.
Even Yolanthe wouldn’t be able to find them now because of the constantly shifting nature of nether-space.
He breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
Luken leaned forward slightly as Horace, the most powerful healer on Second Earth, worked on his wings. Luken had attempted a fold in full-mount and when he’d materialized, his wings had been twisted. None of them could do it yet, not even Luken who had the most natural power of any of them.
Luken’s lips were a white seam. Still, he called out, “What the hell happened? You were supposed to be on a recon mission to locate a base camp.”
Duncan gave a quick rundown of events, ending with, “Yolanthe showed up.”
The squad muttered a few obscenities.
“Sounds like she has your signature.” Luken shifted his gaze to Merl. “Can she fold someone using a wrist scanner? Is that how she did this?”
Merl shrugged. “Maybe. Although, she might have done the initial fold from the Grid Operating Center. Either way, she has enough power to pull it off.”
“If that’s the case,” Rachel said, “Then why didn’t she take Duncan with her when she had the chance?”
Merl shut his scanner down. “It’s obvious she has limits and I’ll thank the Creator for it.”
Luken met Merl’s gaze. “Was Duncan taken when he was shielded? Did Yolanthe have the power to remove him while Rachel covered him with her shield?” He glanced at both Duncan and Rachel, then back to Merl.
Rachel lifted her chin. “I wasn’t shielding either Merl or Duncan when we went into the grid. I only intended to use the power if wreckers approached. As soon as Duncan was taken, I shielded Merl, but it was never the plan to go in shielded.”
“Fuck.” Luken pulled his hands into a pair of powerful fists. “All right, I want to go over this point by point. Spare no detail. Let’s see if we can figure this out, how to do better for the next mission, though it seems clear we go in shielded from now on.”
~ ~ ~
Yolanthe levitated, holding her skirts against her body as she moved past the dead wrecker. She breathed through her mouth since the stench of ruptured intestines filled the darkening grid. It had been a long time since she’d involved herself in a war zone.
She took her time returning to her private portal. Now that she was inside the darkening, she wanted to stay for a few minutes, to enjoy the quiet nether-space region she rarely entered as well as the images moving quickly by like a silent movie.
She couldn’t pierce the darkening on her own; she didn’t have that kind of power. But the development of the comprehensive grid, with portals, had made travel possible for anyone wealthy enough to pay for access. She’d created a portal to Merl’s home just in case she ever needed to pull him out of Second, but to her knowledge he’d never used it.
However, the thought went through her head: How did Duncan get into the Third grid?
Was it possible Merl had a connection to Duncan?
She continued levitating forward. She’d been trying for a month now to reacquire the one man who would have sufficient power in the near future to locate Rapture’s Edge. For her, nothing was more important than gaining access to the mythical place since it would provide sufficient power to conquer Second Earth. More importantly, she would be able to lay the valuable resource at her father’s feet and prove herself worthy in his eyes. Even his three beloved sons had failed to deliver the most significant weapon possible to their father, the noble Chustaffus of Chicago Three.
But she’d lost Duncan again and all because of Rachel, his shield. Once Rachel had covered Duncan in her power, Yolanthe had been unable to either see Duncan or sense him in any other way. She’d also lost him on her wrist scanner.
But how had either of them gotten into the grid?
When she reached her portal, she used the small scanning band on her left wrist and programmed the grid for her villa in Mexico City Three. The moment the portal synced with her home, she simply touched the arched glowing door, the panel opened, and she stepped into her villa living room.
Her snow leopard lifted his head, ears up, then jumped from the chaise-longue, padding toward her. He nuzzled her extended palm and she took her time rubbing his ears and scratching his face.
Instead of moving into the room, however, she found her mind stuck on Merl. Until this very moment, she hadn’t considered the possibility of her spy being in any way involved with Duncan. She knew of his liaison with Endelle, of his attempts to seduce the leader of Second Earth, but he’d never said a word about Duncan when he’d reported back to her.
To be fair, neither had she. Merl didn’t know of her plans to use Duncan to find Rapture’s Edge. But had Merl inadvertently heard things because of his interest in Endelle?
By Duncan’s presence in the darkening grid, Yolanthe knew Duncan had made plans of his own. But what a Second ascender hoped to accomplish on Third she couldn’t imagine.
On the other hand, when she’d been in the Grid Operations Center and had locked onto Duncan, she’d noticed two other entities with him. Her only interest at the time, however, had been to separate Duncan from the others in order to renew her mind-link.
She divined one of the two had been Rachel since Duncan’s supposed breh had rescued him with her bizarre Fourth Earth shielding power. But who was the other individual and why had all three been in the grid?
Yolanthe now wished she’d taken some time to investigate the others when she’d first come across Duncan’s signature. But she’d been so excited to have located him, she’d folded him away then hurried through her own portal to secure him in the darkening.
A chill went through her as though someone treaded on her grave. She actually turned in a circle, wondering if someone was there. But she saw only the rust-and-cream marble pillars of her Mexico City Three home, her extensive sculpted gardens, and the usual guards on duty.
She took a moment and focused inwardly, reaching telepathically for Merl to see if he might know anything about Duncan or his recent activities. Though Merl was in a separate dimension, she had the power to contact him.
How may I serve, Merl sent. At the sound of his deep resonant voice, a tendril of desire worked through her. She’d tried many times to coax Merl into her bed, but the former and very stubborn Warrior of the Blood had refused.
Do you know anything about Duncan Wallace being in the Third Earth grid? I found him there tonight.
Because the telepathic link had been created, she took a moment to explore Merl’s emotions. But all that returned, the only thing she’d ever felt from him, was a profound sense of boredom. Sorry, Your Highness, but I don’t know anything about what that asshole is doing or not doing. I don’t run in his circles. For some reason, he and his pals don’t like me much.
Merl was too much of a flirt to gain many friendships. Even through your recent pursuit of Endelle, you didn’t come across Duncan or hear mention of his activities?
Only the breh-hedden shit. Besides, Wallace was always too caught up in his own drama to pay any attention to me. She felt him sigh. Yolanthe, why don’t you let me come home? There’s nothing here for me on Second and I’m bored out of my skull.
Merl had become a rather hopeless creature, pursuing only his lusts. He was less than useful to her now, especially since Darian Greaves had been sent to Fourth Earth. Before Greaves’s defeat in a battle against Endelle, Merl had provided her with substantial, ongoing reports on Greaves’s attacks against the Second Earth government. And for a while, Yolanthe had actually toyed with the idea of offering to serve as Darian’s queen once he conquered Second Earth. Alas, the man had failed miserably to fulfill his ambitions.
Now that Greaves was gone, her conversations with Merl had dwindled. But she thought it possible he could make himself useful once more. I need information about Duncan. I want you to get close to him and use any means you can. Track his movements, and report back.
When he remained silent, a soft alarm went off in the back of her head. Do you understand what I’m asking of you?
You want me to infiltrate and gather information.
She smiled. You were never stupid. Just remember our little agreement and stay the course. I need this from you.
I’m at your service, Princess.
For a moment, only a split-second really, she felt something emanate from Merl just before she ended the telepathic communication. Stroking her leopard’s head and rubbing his ears, she felt the flavor of the emotion and what came to her was a sense of panic.
Yolanthe gave herself a shake. She had to be mistaken. What did Merl have to be afraid of, except of course for the contents of the last cell in her below-ground prison?
Ah, her prison. One of her favorite places on her estate.
Maybe it was having a discussion with Merl that gave her the idea, but after a moment, she made her way to the round, stone staircase at the east wing of her villa. She descended slowly, her heartrate ramping up. She would need her sex slaves soon because the sight of her prisoners always fed her libido. In seven of her cells were some of the most famous warriors of Third Earth, each a powerhouse in his own right.
The Militia Warrior guards who tended to her prisoners came to attention. They wore the burgundy leather weapons harness of the Third Earth Militia, black leather kilts, and the traditional three long braids on either side of the face. “Your Highness,” the men called out in unison, not looking her in the eye as each brought a sword to his chest in salute.
She nodded, then began a slow progress down the line of cells. She had all seven men shackled and pinned to the walls, some facing away from her, others with a full-frontal view she enjoyed immeasurably. These were no ordinary warriors, but Third Earth Warriors of the Blood, captured at the same time she’d sent Merl to Second Earth.
She loved seeing a fighting man naked and stripped of his power. Each was heavily muscled since she required her prisoners to work out on a daily basis. She wasn’t completely inhuman; she had her sex slaves service them once a week as long as they continued to build muscle. She would have enjoyed taking the men into her bed, but she was convinced they’d kill her before she even had a chance to spread her legs.
Guards ranged down the somewhat wide hallway at twenty-foot intervals. She ran a tight ship and in the several centuries she’d kept a working jail, she’d never had one escape. The creation of her formidable mist over her property had been her best safeguard since not even the most powerful inmate could fold out of the prison.
When she reached the last cell, she smiled, for the woman looked lovely. She wore a semi-sheer lavender veil covering her head and draping past her shoulders. A number of silver weights in the shape of tear-drops were attached to the hem of the veil, holding the fabric in place.
The covering had two special properties. The first prevented the woman from utilizing her telepathy except with tremendous pain and the other would deliver a death-vapor if she attempted to remove the veil. She wore a fresh linen gown, supplied weekly.
An unusual kind of power vibrated from the woman, something Yolanthe had never quite understood. It was as though she lived on a different plane while her body remained imprisoned in the villa palace.
“Katlynn, my dear, I spoke with your brother today for the first time in ages.”
Katlynn turned slowly in her direction. “You talked to Merl?”
“Yes, I did.” Yolanthe smiled. “And I can see you’ve grown hopeful. But I assure you, he has no intention of attempting a rescue. He knows full well any such act on his part would force me to draw a blade across your throat.”
~ ~ ~
Duncan had spent the past several minutes detailing for Luken what happened after he’d gotten separated from Merl and Rachel. Luken was still sitting in the dirt, though Horace had brought in two members of his healing squad to help speed up the wing repair process.
Luken scowled as he shifted his gaze to Merl. “What do you have to say?”
Merl ground his teeth and flared his nostrils. “Your men are holding back. If Duncan had been able to access his Third Earth powers, Yolanthe couldn’t have trapped him. I can’t teach the unteachable.”
Merl’s words infuriated Duncan. “Maybe it’s not the team’s fault. Maybe it’s your method, manner, and quality of instruction. I mean, a couple of minutes ago you blanked out when Luken asked you a question. Yeah, I’m thinking it’s you.”
Merl looked like he wanted to say something, then changed his mind. Even so, he got in Duncan’s face, his light blue eyes fierce. “Did you even try to use your grayle power?”
He glared back at Merl-the-asshole. “Yes, but with no success.”
Merl grimaced. “You’re not listening to me, Duncan. You have to seize the power here.” Merl slapped a hand against the center of his own battle harness, then Duncan’s. “You’re rock solid as a Warrior of the Blood on Second, but you’ve got to bump up your game. Otherwise, you’ll be dead before we even set foot on Third Earth.”
Each foray through the darkening grid had led them to a nest of wreckers and an intense battle, usually involving Rachel’s shield to get them safely out. The team hadn’t yet succeeded once in finding a safe landing on Third Earth.
Duncan flared his nostrils. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
Merl narrowed his eyes and a dark red hue suddenly covered his face. “Get in the game,” he shouted, not two inches away from Duncan.
“I am in the game.” Duncan withheld a long stream of curses that shot through his head.
“Like hell you are.”
Duncan’s hands shook. He wanted to punch the bastard, but it wouldn’t achieve anything especially since Merl was about to go Third Earth warrior on his ass. He could feel the Third ascender revving up.
Merl turned his back to Duncan. The man’s wing-locks were pumped and ready to explode into full-mount.
This was not going to be fun.
As Merl mounted his wings, he disappeared into a fold at exactly the same time. Unbelievable. Dematerializing in full-mount was something none of them could do because it did a serious wing-mangle, at least for Second ascenders. Point-of-fact: Luken, sitting on the ground, surrounded by healers.
But where would Merl appear? Behind Duncan? In front of him?
A new flow of adrenaline hit Duncan’s bloodstream.
Merl, who’d served as a Warrior of the Blood in his own dimension decades past, as well as a grid wrecker, would hold nothing back short of slicing Duncan in two with his sword.
Duncan moved in a slow circle, trying to prepare, his sword held wide, knees bent. Merl reappeared with his black-and-violet banded wings shimmering at the tips. A drift of grayle smoke rose from his body.
“Fuck,” Duncan murmured. He lifted his sword as Merl levitated swiftly a few feet into the air then came down on him like lightning.
Duncan barely blocked the strike with his own sword. And with so much Third Earth power behind the blow, Duncan fell to the ground, flat on his back, the tip of Merl’s blade pressed into the unprotected notch above Duncan’s sternum. A little more pressure would sever his windpipe, a major artery, and his spine. There’d be no coming back.
Merl stared down at him, his wings wafting in the cool night breeze. The desert in late fall wasn’t a bad place to be, unless you were on your back with a sword at your throat.
“You haven’t had a vision in a month,” Merl said quietly, but through gritted teeth. “And you’ve left your woman twisting in the wind. What the hell is wrong with you? Can’t you see the connection? I’ll say it again, get in the game.” The resonance he added hurt Duncan’s ears.
Merl levitated with a faint wing-flap, lifting himself backward a few feet to land on the ground. In one smooth motion, he drew in his wings. All those quick, seamless movements were an amazing demonstration of Merl’s Third power, showcasing the skills he’d been trying but failing to teach the team.
Duncan sat up but for the moment remained where he was. He hated the arrogant bastard who’d been ordered to train them in Third Earth ways.
Merl folded his sword away. “This team is fucked.”
As Duncan rose to his feet, Merl faced the rest of the group. “Which one of you pansy-ass little girls wants to go one-on-one with me? Any of you?”
“I’ll go,” Rachel called out. And before anyone could stop her, she plucked one of the daggers from her weapons harness and flung it straight at Merl’s throat.
But instead of the blade finding home, something the entire team no doubt wanted right now, the Third Earth bastard actually caught the hilt in his hand and threw the blade to the ground. “Anyone else?”
Luken called out, “Merl, back off. We’re done for the night. Everyone, hit the showers or the Ops Cave or whatever the hell you want. We’ll pick up again tomorrow evening.”
When no one moved, he added in a hard voice, “Go.”
Merl picked up Rachel’s dagger from the dirt and handed it to her.
“Anything I can do to speed up my throw?” she asked.
He shook his head. “Rachel, it’s a Third Earth gift. I don’t know what Endelle was thinking creating a team of Second ascenders to do battle on Third.”
When he moved away, Owen shoulder-blocked him. But Merl did nothing more than offer a glare before moving on.
They were all on edge and pissed.
Rachel didn’t have as much of a problem with Merl as the men did. Though to Merl’s credit, he no longer tried to flirt with her. Duncan and Merl had fought a few weeks back and Rachel had intervened, covering Duncan with her shield and forcing the fight to stop. He’d been out of his mind with jealousy because Merl had turned all his flirting charm toward Rachel. At least he’d stopped that shit.
Duncan turned toward Rachel, wanting to say something to her, maybe to apologize again. But as usual, his voice shut down. All he could manage was, “Thanks for saving my ass. Again.”
She offered a brief nod, but didn’t respond. They were hardly speaking these days unless it was a mission-oriented conversation.
He wished she was pissed off about his having broken up with her a month ago, then he could pretend this wasn’t all his fault. Instead, she’d been womanly about the whole thing and had given him space, lots of it. No pressure. But because he was caught in the breh-hedden, the myth-that-wasn’t-a-myth, even her low-key attitude felt like an unbearable weight on his soul.
He wished she’d yell at him. But she never had, even though he’d basically cut her off after he’d promised ‘to try’.
As he watched Rachel fold a cloth into her hand and wipe down the blade, desire for her rose as it always did, like a hurricane within his body. She was his woman, his breh, the one destined to bond with him. And he craved her. Even though they’d dated off-and-on for decades, what he felt for her now was beyond description, an ache in his groin, his soul, a profound vibration through his sliced up heart.
She turned toward him. Her lips parted and he understood why. The breh-hedden had added a pair of inciting scents to the picture the moment sexual desire rose. No doubt, she smelled his need, which she’d said reminded her of spicy ale.
“Duncan,” she said softly, a plea in her voice.
But he couldn’t act on what he felt. He’d tried to tell her what was wrong, but he found it impossible to explain why being close to her cut him up inside. He’d called it a snake that bites.
Despite his almost painful craving for her, he turned on his heel and headed toward the entrance to Militia Warrior HQ. He wondered what Merl had meant when he suggested his disconnect from Rachel was part of his issue in not being able to harness his grayle power.
Was it possible Rachel was the key to opening up his Third Earth abilities?
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Rachel watched Duncan go, her gaze fixed for a long moment on his broad shoulders, then moving down the beautiful line of his back. Duncan had a perfect physique with a lean waist and a firm warrior’s ass. The sexy, black leather kilt gave her all kinds of ideas. When she’d caught his spicy ale scent, she’d almost thrown herself at him. She needed him badly and still didn’t really understand why he’d cut her off.
She knew he was in pain, enduring a kind of torment she might never fully understand. His father had been a cruel man and his mother had disappeared when he was six. She’d come to believe the combination of both circumstances had poisoned her man. It was possible he’d never come back to her despite the pull of the breh-hedden.
Meanwhile, she kept her tears to herself.
She finished cleaning off her dagger then slid it into her battle-harness.
Luken called to her. “You did good tonight, Rachel. Thanks for stepping up.”
She waved in his direction, but she was too tired to offer more than a half-smile. She thought Luken was one of the finest men she’d ever known, much in Duncan’s mold. The problem was Duncan didn’t believe he was worth a damn. Maybe that was why she had tremendous grace for him right now. And she loved him. He was her man, her breh.
She rotated her throwing arm slowly then pulled her elbow with her opposing hand to stretch a few of her nagging back muscles. She was exhausted, as usual, from the night’s work, and really sore in a variety of places. It was a testament to a month’s training that she no longer lost her cookies at the sight of blood or blown-up wreckers. For the past month the team had either battled death vampires at the Second Earth Borderlands as part of their training, or faced off with wreckers in the Third Earth darkening grid.
And of course, since Yolanthe now had a bead on Duncan, the game had taken a brand new terrifying turn.
She was learning a lot, but progress was way too slow. The entire team lived with a constant sense of urgency, a collective need to be heading to Third. From the beginning, Endelle’s vision had made it clear the fate of two worlds depended on the black ops team getting to Third and doing some good, especially Duncan and Luken.
Luken was worried, though he hid it well. Merl was right. How could a team of Second ascenders hope to do battle against the most powerful forces on Third Earth? The disparity in preternatural power alone made the situation untenable. But none of the men were quitters and each would die doing all they could to make the team work.
She was no different. Once having committed to becoming a warrior, she was all in.
She headed to the bathroom and did a superficial clean-up, removing as much of the blood spatter as she could. She didn’t like to shower at HQ, but she wasn’t exactly ready to head home either.
Her black leather flight suit and weapons harness would have to be laundered. She had twelve battle suits in all and now understood why Luken had insisted so many were necessary.
Every night ended in some kind of damage to her uniform and so sweat-stained both laundering and mending were needed by the time dawn rolled around.
Besides, she had an itch and she was hoping against hope maybe she could talk Duncan into sharing her bed tonight. She’d caught his scent. He wasn’t indifferent to her. Maybe she could seduce him, despite his troubled spirit.
Well, a woman could dream…
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I hope you enjoyed this look at VEILED. For more information and buy links, go here!
And now, have a wonderful day and an even better night! For more information about my books, keep scrolling! Live the fang!
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Do you enjoy free books!?! All year, I’ll be giving away copies of my e-books through my newsletter. I also run subscriber-exclusive giveaways, so be sure to sign up on my home page in the right hand column where it says: Subscribe to Our Mailing List! Once you do, you’ll receive a welcome letter with a link to your free e-book! Enjoy and hugs, Caris Roane!
Be sure to look for your welcome letter which has the link to your free e-book!
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Most Recent Releases:
A VAMPIRE’S SOFT EMBRACE
Taking the vampire into the past, changed the future…
The man held her heart in his hand.
He had for the past five years.
Did he even have the smallest clue?
~ A Vampire’s Soft Embrace
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REVEALED: Rapture’s Edge 3, A Guardians of Ascension Novel #11
He’s a warrior deep in his bones, but all she ever wanted was peace…
As Duncan battles the dangerous death vampires at night, during the day he fights an even greater monster: He can’t believe he’s worthy of the woman he loves.
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Mastyr Vampire Stone wants to bond with Aralynn, his battle partner, until he learns she lives a double life as a woman he despises…
For hundreds of years, Stone has lived a solitary life, serving Tannisford Realm as he battles the deadly Invictus wraith-pairs with his Vampire Guard.
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More about Caris Roane and her books!!!
THE FLAME SERIES
Vampire Officer Connor of the Crescent Border Patrol tries to suppress his desire for Iris, a powerful witch. Because the woman possesses the ability to kill him with the tips of her fingers, how can he possibly fall in love with her? When a double homicide throws them together, he soon finds his deepest fantasies fulfilled as Iris succumbs to his seductions.
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Vampire Officer Vaughn of the Crescent Border Patrol gets called to a triple homicide in a deadly place called the Graveyard. When he finds that Emma Delacey has been summoned to the same crime scene, warning bells sound. He’s tried to suppress his desire for the beautiful witch knowing nothing good can come of a relationship in the alter world of Five Bridges.
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Brannick works with Juliet Tunney to help several human women escape the nightmare of Five Bridges. But something isn’t right. Juliet acts as though she knows him really well, yet he’s only met her once. Unless…the dreams he’s been having about her aren’t dreams at all.
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AMBER FLAME, Book #4 of the Flame Series
Fergus has been without an alpha-mate for three years, from the time his wife was murdered. He’s failed repeatedly to bond with the female wolves of the Gordion Pack. When he rescues a fae woman from a sex club, his need to bond with her goes into overdrive.
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On Christmas Eve, vampire Officer Kyle Drake has finally persuaded the shy wolf shifter, Verena, to go on a first date. His plans include a little mistletoe and a lot of seduction.
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THE GUARDIANS OF ASCENSION SERIES
(After Ascension, Burning Skies, Wings of Fire, Born of Ashes, Obsidian Flame and Gates of Rapture)
Includes Sub-Series: Dawn of Ascension and the Rapture’s Edge Saga
Warrior Gideon swore he would never see Elise Jordan again even though they’d been passionate lovers for two years. Her human nature couldn’t survive in his ascended vampire world; she would be vulnerable to attack on every front if he tried to continue a relationship with her.
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Fearing that his newly emerged grayle power will kill innocent ascenders, Samuel Daman struggles to keep his distance from beautiful Vela Stillwell. But the breh-hedden has struck and her light floral scent tears at his restraint.
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For the last few weeks, since Warrior Duncan professed his intention ‘to try’ to make his relationship with Rachel work, he’s failed on all fronts. But how can he explain that a serpent lives in his gut, poisoning him against her?
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For decades, Warrior Duncan has had an on-again, off-again relationship with a woman opposed to his warrior lifestyle. When Rachel shows up in his life again, he wants to keep his distance, but the infamous breh-hedden, the myth-that-isn’t-a myth, bears down on him keeping him in a perpetual caveman-like state.
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THE BLOOD ROSE SERIES – SHORT WORKS
The Blood Rose Tales, are much shorter stories than the “Embrace” books of the Blood Rose Series. Each ‘tale’ highlights one particular aspect of the world of the Nine Realms as well as a mastyr vampire in pursuit of his Blood Rose.
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Zephyr can’t keep away from Alesia and feels obligated to keep her safe. They’d broken up, unable to reconcile painfully opposing views on what should be done to the evil Invictus pairs. But when several wraith-pairs attack her diner, he flies her to safety, taking her home where they’re trapped together for the entire day.
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Yolen keeps his love life and his work life separate with one goal in mind – to protect Brianna. After seeing his best friend slaughtered by the enemy, he will do whatever it takes to ensure Brianna’s safety even if it means holding her at a distance.
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For weeks, Mastyr Willem, agent for the Realm Investigative Unit, has been tracking Charlotte Vail, a human college student at the local Grochaire University. He’s had a thing for Charlotte that he doesn’t quite understand.
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THE BLOOD ROSE SERIES – THE BOOKS
Enter a world of blood-starved mastyr vampires and the rare women who can satisfy their deepest needs…
How can he resist his blood rose…
Gerrod, mastyr vampire of the Merhaine Realm, never thought to have his blood-needs satisfied by a mere human. But Abigail is no ordinary woman.
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Ethan, mastyr vampire of the Bergisson Realm, never thought to find his blood rose, the one woman who could ease the blood-starvation he’s endured for decades. But Samantha carries a surprising level of power as her newly discovered fae heritage emerges..
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Quinlan must keep Grochaire Realm safe from the enemy at all costs. As ruler of his realm, a woman has no permanent place in his day-to-day existence. But when his lust takes him to Batya’s bedroom, he soon discovers he’s deep into a powerful experience that threatens to blow his life apart.
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Seth, Mastyr Vampire of Walvashorr Realm, craves Lorelei, his new bodyguard, but he has a hands-off policy with those under his command. However, the sexy glint in her eye, as well as her wolf-shifter ways, keeps him in a fevered state.
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Mastyr Vampire Jude has kept his distance from all women because he lost his wife and daughter to an enemy attack a hundred years ago. He won’t go through that kind of loss again. And he won’t jeopardize another woman’s life while the deadly Invictus wraith-pairs still pose a threat in the Nine Realms.
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Mastyr Vampire Malik has only one goal: to serve the realm he loves. Battling both the dreaded Invictus wraith-pairs and an element in Ashleaf Realm that wants all innocent wraiths dead, Malik can’t afford to get distracted. But Willow has already become an obsession as he lusts for the powerful fae whose blood he craves.
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Mastyr Vampire Zane didn’t want another woman in his life not after the dreaded Invictus killed his wife five years ago. He serves Swanicott Realm, the land he rules, and doesn’t want anything to interfere with his war against the enemy.
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Mastyr Vampire Ian never wanted to see Regan again. He blamed her for the massacre at Raven’s Overlook, an attack that killed his sister and her children. He’s convinced Regan enthralled him, using her extensive fae powers to keep him by her side. If he’d been in his realm that night, he could have saved 200 people.
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Mastyr Vampire Griffin hates his enslavement in Margetta’s fortress. He sought death a thousand times because of it, but was denied when the Ancient Fae brought him back repeatedly, forcing him to train her evil army. When a beautiful fae-slave, Sandra, tells him to live, he begins to believe his life could have more meaning…
Caris Roane is the New York Times bestselling author of thirty-seven paranormal romance books. Writing as Valerie King, she has published fifty novels and novellas in Regency Romance. Caris lives in Phoenix, Arizona, loves gardening, enjoys the birds and lizards in her yard, but encourages the scorpions to inhabit elsewhere! Her motto: Live the Fang!
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