Found wandering in a field as a child, Lee Ross was given a name by the state and placed in a foster home–without anyone realizing she wasn’t entirely human. All her life, she’s tried to dismiss the odd dreams that have plagued her, dreams of monsters creeping through the night and a man, fighting demons by her side. But the bruises she wakes up with are all too real to ignore
Then the man from dreams appears in the flesh. His name is Kalen and he insists that her destiny lies in his world, the world of her dreams.
To save their people, he must convince Lee to give everything she knows, follow her heart and cross into the Under Realm, even though once she does, she’ll never be able to return.
Lee shook her head. “Magick isn’t real.” She licked her lips as she said it and wondered why those words felt so…wrong.
“I think you know it is.”
Thinking made the pain in her head worse, she decided as she squinted at him. “You are confusing the hell out of me.”
He leaned forward and she found her eyes lingering on the bulge of muscle in his arm. Another memory surfaced. His hands on her body. His mouth on hers. She had kissed him, had wrapped herself around his body like she wanted to crawl inside him. And he’d kissed her back with the same hunger. Blood rushed to her cheeks and she dragged her eyes away from his muscles, forcing herself to focus on his eyes. But the dancing light there had her groaning. He knew, exactly, what thoughts were running through her mind.
Gingerly, she rolled onto her belly and buried her head in her arms. Even that was enough to make that bright, throbbing pain double in intensity. She moaned her way through it and as the wave of pain peaked and then ebbed away, she muttered, “Why is this happening to me?”
His fingers, long and warm, came up to stroke down her neck, before he settled into a soothing massage. She could have whimpered as he worked the tense muscles until they felt about as loose as putty. “I have no answer to that. At least, none that I could explain. But you belong here. How you managed to get from our world, to the one you call home, and then back—I have no explanation.”
A long moment of silence passed and he sighed. “But you have a great deal of power within you. The creatures from Anqar are attracted to power. Without strong protectors, a great many children with gifts like yours die before they even reach puberty. Die or are taken. So however you ended up in that world, it was a blessing.”
“What is Anqar?” she asked. But before he could answer, a flash of pain exploded behind her eyes and she had to stifle her whimper in the odd feeling mattress beneath her. “Damn it, my head…”
“Roll over,” he ordered gently.
She resisted and his hands came up and carefully, but forcefully, turned her onto her back. “This will help.” His voice sounded odd, tinny, as though he was speaking to her through a tunnel as he touched his fingers to the middle of her brow. Almost instantly, cool, sweet relief started to ease the pain inside her head. After a few minutes passed and the pain had all but abated, Lee chanced opening one eye and looking up at him.
“Are you magick?” Touching her fingers, to her brow, she felt something small and smooth against her skin, something disc shaped. And to her touch, it felt cool.
“It’s medicine,” Kalen responded with a faint grin. “No magick needed. I should have not even waited until you woke. There is some tea you need to drink. It will settle the nausea in your belly, and help your strength to return faster.”
She closed her eyes, sighing blissfully and murmured, “If it works as well as this, give me a gallon of it.”
Moments later, though, as he forced the cup back to her lips, she pressed against his wrist and snapped, “That tastes disgusting.” She would have thrown it, except he wouldn’t let her. The taste of it coated her tongue, seemed to cling to her throat. Sewer water would have tasted better. It was bitter, pungent and there was a faint moldy taste to it, like something in it should have been pitched ages ago. He pushed it towards her again and she turned her head. “Get that crap away from me.”
Kalen arched a brow and said, “The sooner your energy comes back, the sooner those headaches will stop. That pain patch will not stop them forever.”
With a curl of her lip, she said, “I’ll just use the patches, thank you.”
Turning her head away, she started to lay back down, only to have him fist a hand in her hair and jerk her head back. She gagged on the tea while he literally poured down her throat. Choking on the vile stuff, Lee jerked against his hold. When he finally let go, she spat what remained in her mouth out at him, gasping and rubbing at her stinging eyes. “You jack ass!” she shouted in between coughing fits.
“Next time, maybe you’ll drink it on your own,” he responded levelly.
“Next time, you can kiss my ass,” she wheezed out, snatching the cup of water he held out to her. At least, she hoped it was water. Water or cyanide. Right then, she couldn’t decide which she’d prefer. It was just water, though, cold and oddly sweet. She downed half of it before shoving the cup back at him and flopping down on the bed.
“I would be rather happy to.” A cold cloth wiped over her face and her eyes flew open as she batted his hand away.
“Happy to what?” She rolled onto her belly and buried her face in the mattress. She would have cut her arm off before she admitted the churning in her belly had eased.
He slid a hand down her back and Lee tensed as that hand cupped the curve of her butt. His hair fell down around them when he bent over her, sliding along her bare arms as he murmured, “You suggested that next time I could kiss your ass.” Through her thin pajamas, she could feel the heat and strength of his hand on her ass. He squeezed lightly and she had to clamp her mouth shut to keep from sighing a little. “I would be happy to.”
Read an excerpt from Veil of Shadows, due out in September 2010.
Also available in ebook @ Waterstones in the UK