MY FAVORITE LINES from the pages of
. . . Sleep was the illusion. Nightmares the reality. Or was it just the insanity of a restless soul? Questions without answers. Answers without questions.
... The soul seeks true friendship, the heart seeks true love. Having both in one soul is the miracle of bonded souls.
Here's an Excerpt from
I have no means; I make Docility my means.
—The Samurai Creed
Janay rose out of the fog of slumber so deep, so peaceful that she hated to surface, but the jostling and undulating of the mattress beneath her sent pain radiating from her rebuilt hip. Was she on a troop carrier? Opening her eyes, she beheld a black velvet canopy draped over the ebony wood posters of a medieval-sized bed.
Where was she?
Panting grunts were followed by hot breath on her lower belly. The terror of rape lightninged through her, and she faintly whispered, “Poke!” The dirk didn’t come into her hand, but the jostling stopped.
“Trond!” a male voice said.
She lowered her gaze to find Poke’s hilt protruding from a mass of long dark brown hair that semi-veiled a man’s face. Poke’s blade tip held steady against the man’s Adam’s apple. The man was on all fours, fully dressed in a midnight-blue turtleneck and matching knit pants, the uniform of a Guardian of the Law.
“It’s okay,” the irate man said. “I’m dressing you. Putting clothes on you, not off. Tell your screwy dagger to back off.”
There was something familiar about the voice. “Why are you dressing me?”
“We’re going to the hospital. Thought you’d prefer wearing something instead of being nude.”
Hospital! She elbow-ratchet herself up. “No hospital. Poke!”
The blade was instantly in her palm. She grasped the dirk, twisted her wrist and arm, then rapped Poke’s hilt to the side of the man’s head.
“Ow!” He reared back from the blow and rocked onto his heels. He swore unintelligible words and rubbed his injury. “Put that thing away.”
She held Poke tighter and scooted backward, wincing from the pain of her protesting hip and feeling a twitch where the tormantrata had clawed her back. She soon came up against the solid, carved dragon relief on the headboard. Sitting up, she felt the coolness of fabric against her skin. She wore black silk pajamas. Men’s pajamas. And skom, the man glaring at her looked familiar. Such dark features . . . the shadow of a beard . . . Tienan? Yes. His name was Tienan and he was—he was—? The GOOL!
She quickly panned the room from right to left. Black walls. Ebony enameled furniture, Japanese styling. Lighting fixtures hidden behind crown molding. Short black velvet curtains covering high windows above a desk-computer terminal. In the corner, an upholstered black velvet, wingback chair. Everything deathly dark. Demon warlock dark.
Poke wiggled out of her hand and vanished.
Why had the blade abandoned her? She glanced about the room again. Quiet. As restful as night . . . Maybe Poke thought she wasn’t in danger anymore? “This place could use some color.” Had she just said that?
Tienan stared at her. In his stony-gray eyes, patience warred with uncertainty. “I rest better in the heart of darkness.”
Rowen popped his head around the corner of the open bedroom door. “Boots just called. She’s turned the corner by the chapel. I told her to come to the side door—” He glanced at Janay, then back to Tienan. “I see the lady’s awake. Better hurry.”
With the hardness of steel in her voice, Janay enunciated each of her words. “I am not going to any hospital.”
A momentary spark of anger flashed in Tienan’s eyes making her aware of how formidable, how determined, a man he was. A man used to giving orders, not taking them.
Rowen came to her bedside and spoke in a tone as quiet as the silence found in the eye of a hurricane. “Did you not pledge your soul and care to Adrada’s keeping?”
A memory winked of the aftermath of putting Tal back into Rowen. She’d seen Adrada, thought she was as good as dead, and had said Adrada, I commend my care and soul to thee. “I thought I was dying.”
“You’re not dying. At least we don’t think so. Can’t be sure without someone examining you.” Rowen swayed, then sat on the edge of the bed. “Adrada was adamant Tienan had the care of you.”
Who was she to question the archangel? Only— “Why the GOOL’s care and not yours?”
“I’ve no idea. Never thought to ask, but it might have something to do with the three of us staying together for the next few weeks.”
“What are you talking about?” She had no intention of remaining in the company of these warlocks for a minute longer than necessary.
Tienan’s exasperation crackled in his voice. “Look, lady, we are linked because of the unity ceremony, and we all are sick!” He crawled to the edge of the bed, got to his feet, and clutched the bedpost. “My brother’s veed is unresponsive. You’ve been mangled by gargoyles. Who knows what internal injuries you’ve got.”
“Been busted up worse than this in barrooms. I’m fine. You go to the hospital with Rowen.”
Tienan’s lips pursed so tight they went white. “Woman, the healers are at Guardian Central, at the spaceport in Bhutar!”
Rowen put his fever-warm hand over hers.
Funny, he didn’t look feverish. She studied his hand on hers. Maybe it was her hand that was ice cold. That couldn’t be good.
“Look at me,” Rowen commanded with gentle force.
“Tal wants to know why you don’t like doctors.”
“They use drugs. Drugs create madness . . .” Her voice faded. “They’ll strap me down, lock the door.”
Rowen removed his hand. The ensuing silence was as dark as the room, a room that seemed to be closing in on her.
Tienan shook his head minutely.
Was he having a conversation with his veed?
Suddenly he nailed her with his gaze. “What’s your name?”
“I am The Grave Digger. I dig demons’ graves.”
“Stop that!” Rowen’s sharp tone made her wonder if she’d lapsed into being irrational or illogical—or maybe both. Not good. Was she about to lose control over reality again?
“According to Adrada,” Rowen said evenly, “you dig the demon graves, but you can’t dig them unless the executioner is with you.”
The only executioner of demons she knew was General Tarfooga, and she no longer soldiered for him. “That makes no sense.”
Rowen shrugged. “Adrada didn’t take time to give details. He only said to tell you all would be revealed at the proper time.”
Leave it to Adrada to be cryptic.
Tienan swayed. “We need medical help.”
Janay half-shrieked, “I’m not going to a hospital!”
“Yes, you are!” Tienan’s voice matched her outburst octave for octave.
“Quit shouting!” Rowen yelled. “This is getting us nowhere.”
“Obviously,” said the slender, middle-aged woman with dyed mahogany hair who stood with her hip resting against the doorjamb. She wore a midnight-blue, long-sleeved turtleneck top and knit slacks along with a jacket bearing the insignia patch of the Guardians of the Law. The pips on her collar meant she had rank. As she entwined her arms across her chest, a wisp of hair floated down from her topknot.
In turning to face the woman, Tienan swayed and clutched the bedpost with both hands. “When’d you get here?”
“A minute ago. Well, long enough to hear the lady is adamant she won’t go to a hospital.” The woman’s keen hazel-brown eyes studied Janay. “Forgive Tienan his bad manners. My name is Lieutenant Valenteena McMurdy, but everyone calls me Boots.” She pointed to her black patent leather half-boots which had suede tipped toes. “I’m Tienan’s partner.”
Janay gritted her teeth. “Another damn GOOL.”
Boots leveled a questioning gaze at Tienan.
“She knows who and what we are, but she’s been evasive about giving us her name.” Tienan glared at Janay, his voice hard-edged. “And we are not the damned!”
“Meaning I am?”
“Ah, ah, ha. Be nice children.” Boots came into the room. “People who are sick often snap at one another, so everyone take a long, slow breath. Now, I, by rank of seniority, hereby order you, Tienan, and you, Rowen, to the van. Get going.”
“I’m all for that.” Rowen stood up, took a moment to steady himself, regained his equilibrium, and then left.
The room began to spin and a second before the darkness overtook her, Janay heard Tienan say, “Bless the powers, she’s finally passed out.”
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