Ever since he was fifteen, mix-blooded Bringer Luc Le Daun has blamed himself for the death of the woman he loved. His secret guilt led him into a life of danger, risking all and committing to no one.
Seeking revenge on Luc Le Daun has been all Jade Kendell has thought about for years. When her plan goes awry and she’s brought into the Bringers’ fold, she fights to keep her own dark secret hidden. Her desire for a better life battles with a promise made long before she understood its true cost.
Brought together by their pasts, Jade and Luc plunge into the dangerous world of the demon Bane, yet as the peril of their journey grows, so does the attraction between them. The price they will be forced to pay threatens their fragile bond, especially when their slightest misstep could give the Demon King exactly what he needs to annihilate the Bringers…
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The Shrouded Forest, Outer Faela, Inness
“Come out, come out, wherever you are.” The demon’s taunt circled through Jade’s veiled hiding place. “You can’t escape.” Leaves rustled, shuffling under the demon’s feet. Its call drew closer. “You can never escape.”
Jade ground her teeth together and squeezed her right arm, cringing against the searing bite racing up her limbs. After all these years, she’d still not gotten used to Bane burn, as she called it. Her gaze darted around her small hiding spot inside the hollowed tree trunk, searching for something to draw the demon’s attention away. Dampness seeped through the seat of Jade’s pants and sent an involuntary shiver up her spine—whether from cold or anticipation, she couldn’t say.
A stone lay half-buried beneath the layer of rotting leaves. Careful not to make a sound, she picked up the rock and let it drop into her palm.
“You know I’ll find you,” the demon called from farther away.
With achingly slow movements, Jade scooted low enough to get a clear shot through the branches. She waited, listening. Nothing. Cursed demon. The stretching silence chipped away at her patience. Not a single leaf fluttered beyond her cover, but the needle-like bites on her skin told her the demon huntress was near.
Jade drew her hand back and focused on a spot several yards away. Concentrating, she closed her eyes and sought the ancient words. An earth magic chant, normally dormant until she needed it, filled her mind and rushed from her lips in an indistinct hiss. She snapped her wrist forward and released the stone.
As if thrown with full force, the rock sailed through the opening in the branches and disappeared into the shadows of the surrounding woods. A small crack echoed when the stone hit what must have been the trunk of a tree.
She held her breath but didn’t have to wait long. Three running steps thundered toward her hiding place. She tensed, ready to fight. The loud thump of the demon’s wings extending was followed by a rushing uptake of air. The dark shadow soared above her and headed toward the sound of the rock. It banked left and disappeared into the wall of trees.
Not waiting to see if her ruse worked, Jade scrambled from her spot, the twigs tearing the green kerchief from her head and scoring her back with their sharp points. She didn’t stop to retrieve the material or examine her injuries. Escape was her only thought.
Any second, the demon would realize she’d outsmarted it and return to the hunt, more determined than ever. Jade raced in the opposite direction, never running in a straight line for too long. She snaked a path through the trees in an all-too-familiar pattern meant to throw her pursuer off her trail. The woods blurred. Her chest tightened and her breathing became labored, but she didn’t stop.
Prickles nipped at her skin, which meant the danger was still near. A stitch of pain jabbed at her side. She wrapped an arm around her waist, but it didn’t help stem the discomfort. She craned her neck to look over her shoulder. Only the dark woods yawned behind her—empty—demonless as far as she could see.
Hope jabbed at her, teasing her into slowing her step, mocking her with the possibility that she’d actually eluded the Bane. She scanned the canopy. Still no demon. Her jog slowed and finally stopped. Blood pounded against her chest like a drum, ricocheting into her ears. She dragged in a deep breath, willing her body to recover.
A rivulet of sweat ran down the back of her neck, beneath her loose and tangled hair. She pushed the damp strands from her face. Her gaze raked the trees and sky for movement. Nothing. The demon lived for this kind of challenge. It loved to taunt its prey, which was her at this moment, into doing something stupid, namely standing around like an idiot the way she was now.
Jade began to jog again, ignoring the pinch in her side but not ignoring the raw burn that swept across her skin. Pain was the one thing that could divide her attention and make her lose focus. Over the years she’d mastered tolerance for many of life’s discomforts—cold, hunger, loneliness—but pain refused to be conquered.
She massaged her ribs. Just a little farther and she’d reach the sanctified grounds of the small chapel. There she’d be safe and could rest.
The throbbing pain suddenly flared, her only warning before large talons wrapped around her upper arms and lifted her from the ground. Jade screamed, her stomach lurching toward her feet. Her body swung wildly, the demon’s wings pulling her higher, cresting the tops of the trees.
Nausea rolled through her. “Put me down!”
A high-pitched cackle erupted from above. “Are you sure about that?”
Next to pain, she hated heights most. Vomit crept up her throat and she swallowed hard, fighting against the demon’s hold. Swirling air from the flapping wings battered her.
“You promised, no flying!”
The demon cackled again. “Promises are meant to be broken.”
“Damn it, Rell, put me down!”
“You’re no fun.”
Jade bit her tongue when the creature flipped its body to point head down. The sting had hardly registered before they fell into a spiral, plunging toward the earth. Her stomach slammed into her throat. Heartbeats hammered against her chest as the ground raced up to meet her.
Please, Sainted Ones, let me die now.
They circled low over the smooth rise of a hill. Without warning, Rell let her go and Jade suddenly found herself toppling through the air. A scream ripped from her throat but turned to a heavy grunt when she hit the ground hard and tumbled across the rise in a tangle of limbs. Stiff vegetation scraped a layer or more of flesh from her arms. A thorny bush blocked her path and she crashed into it, its sharp branches enveloping her. She groaned and rolled away from the plant’s painful embrace to lay with her arms and legs thrown wide.
Stinging cuts licked her body. “Fucking demon,” she muttered.
The wild pounding in her chest slowed as the shock from hovering ten feet above the tree line faded. Jade rolled to her stomach and kissed the wet grass. Thank the Sainted Ones. She lay with her face pressed against the cool ground for a few seconds before pushing to a sitting position, babying her battered ribs.
The demon circled and flared its green wings, alighting on the top of a boulder. Curled black talons rasped along the stone.
“I’m going to kill you,” Jade said.
“That’s not a very nice thing to say.” The creature folded its green wings behind its back and gave a feminine pout. “Besides, you can’t. I’m invincible.”
Jade struggled to her feet and pulled a dagger from her boot. “You know I hate flying.”
“Yes,” the demon drawled. “I do.”
“Then why did you throw me to the ground from ten feet up?”
“You told me to put you down.” The demon shrugged. “I was only doing what you asked.”
“I could have broken every bone in my body. Where’s the fair fight in that?”
“Bless the Sainted Ones, but you complain a lot. Whoever said being hunted by a demon was fair?” A wicked grin spread across the creature’s face. Its tiny spiked horns flicked toward the knife clutched in Jade’s hand. “Are we going to fight now?”
Exhaustion and aches battered her body, but Jade ignored them. She might not be able to best Rell, but getting in a few good punches would help cool her ire. “Oh yes, we are most definitely going to fight.”
“Oh goody.” The demon’s grin widened to a fanged smile. It jumped from the boulder and the scrape of talons against rock whispered across the clearing. “This is my favorite part.” Muscular legs rippled under the thin iridescent fabric that clung to her legs with each step the Bane took toward Jade. “I love your misplaced hope of beating me.”
“That’s the wonderful thing about being human, Rell—my optimism.”
The demon edged to the side, trying to work its way behind her, but Jade knew this maneuver. Tensed for the attack, she backed in a circle, keeping the demon in front of her.
“Remember hope, Rell?”
She stressed the demon’s name, trying to distract it.
The creature turned its head and spit, and then tracked its yellow eyes back to her. A sneer curled across the full upper lip, daring her to continue.
Not taking the warning, Jade spouted some of her best verbal barbs. “The joy of a new day? The feel of the sun on your face?”
Fangs glistened in the gloom of the darkening woods. “You humans are consumed with feelings.” Rell’s voice rose to a mocking whine. “Is this right? Is that wrong? I don’t have to worry about any of that now.”
“I know you.” Jade pointed the knife at the demon. “You miss being human.”
“And you talk too much.” The demon crouched. “Let’s fight.”
She attacked. Jade dove to the side and swiped her knife in a wide arc as she came to her feet. The blade grazed the demon’s arm, but Rell only laughed. With a powerful leap, the demon launched onto the boulder and spun to push off, hitting Jade full force and taking her down. The blade flew from Jade’s hand. A smooth green arm slid around her neck and tightened like a large snake crushing its prey, cutting off her air. She gasped and clawed at the forearm and elbow, but the pressure didn’t ease.
Blood pounded against Jade’s skull and black dots danced in front of her eyes. She kicked and flopped, trying to get free.
“Why would I miss being a weak human female?” Rell whispered. “I serve no man. Answer to no master.”
The zing of a blade being drawn sang through Jade’s descent into unconsciousness.
“Release her,” a strange voice said.
Rell’s grip eased enough for Jade to suck in a partial breath.
“Release her,” the voice demanded.
The demon’s imprisoning arm loosened and Jade fell to the ground. She rolled to her back and coughed, gulping in the cool, blessed air. The black dots faded and her vision cleared enough to see the silver tip of a blade pressed against Rell’s neck.
“We’ve got company,” the demon said, staring down at her.
Jade struggled to her feet. A young man of about seventeen held the sword. His eyes were wide with fear but his hand remained steady. The knot at his throat bobbed up and down with compulsive swallowing, his jaw clenching and unclenching.
“Run,” he said. “I’ll deal with the demon.”
The creature laughed. “Yes, run along, Jade, so the boy can deal with me.”
Jade’s gaze cut to Rell. “Don’t hurt him.”
“Run,” the young man said again. “This abomination needs to die.”
The demon laughed again. “It’s too easy.”
“Rell.” Jade whispered the demon’s name, holding the creature’s focus on her.
Rell’s eyes narrowed, pinning her with their yellow intensity. With slow movements, Jade gripped the point of the man’s sword and moved it away from the smooth, green neck. The blade sliced her hand but she didn’t release it.
The man fought her. “What are you doing? Run, you stupid cow.”
Anger blazed in the reptilian eyes, and before Jade could act, Rell spun. Like a striking snake, the demon knocked the blade from the man’s hand and closed black talons around his throat, lifting him off the ground. His toes dangled an inch above solid earth, kicking, searching for a foothold. He choked and sputtered.
“Rell!” Jade shouted. “Put him down!”
The demon’s lips pulled back in a snarl. “Why should I?”
“Put—him—down.” She enunciated each word, trying to pull Rell from the blood lust, but the demon didn’t budge. “Please.” With a soft touch, Jade laid a hand on the demon’s wrist. “Please. Don’t give in.”
Rell’s nostrils flared, seeming to struggle against her plea. “But the pull is so strong.”
“Fight it.” Jade took Rell’s face in her hands and forced the demon to look at her. “Fight it.” Her fingers caressed the smooth and delicate cheek of the demon. “Let him go.”
Sable brown brows furrowed against the inner struggle so apparent on the demon’s face. Rell stared for several long seconds, the man’s efforts to escape weakening. Yellow eyes swirled to green and back to yellow. With an anguished cry, the demon tossed the man across the clearing. He landed with a grunt and lay on his back, wheezing. Jade didn’t move to help him, but instead lowered her hands, holding the demon’s gaze. This was the most dangerous time.
“Go,” Jade said quietly to the man.
He coughed. “You control the demon?”
She opened her mouth to tell him to shut up but before she could utter a word, Rell shot across the distance to tower over him.
“Nobody—” Talons clawed the ground next to the man’s leg—“controls the demon.”
He scrambled backward. Jade raced across the clearing and jumped between them, bracing her back against the demon’s chest to stop another attack. “Go! Now!”
His gaze darted from her to Rell. Finally jumping to his feet, he fled into the woods. They stood, back to chest, watching until he’d disappeared.
Jade released a heavy breath and turned. “I’m proud of you.”
Rell gave a snort of disgust. “You should have let me kill him.”
“Why? Because it feels good?”
A fanged smile pulled across the creature’s mouth. “No, because the jackass called you a stupid cow.” The demon reached and brushed a sweaty strand of hair from Jade’s face. “Nobody calls my sister names—but me.”
About the Author
Having lived all over the world, and finally settling in the icy region of Alaska, she's always looking for the next adventure. It's not unusual to find Boone traversing the remotest parts of the Alaskan bush, gathering information for her stories. No person or escapade is off limits when it comes to weaving real life experiences into her books or blogs.
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