BOUND BY DARKNESS
by Alexis Morgan
Release Date: May 2011
Caught between two worlds, a powerful warrior must choose between impossible destinies when he meets a woman whose love will either make or break him. . . .
As the daughter of a Regent, Sasha has long known about the secret underworld of the Paladins and their work protecting her kind from the dark forces on the other side of the energy barrier. So when she is sent on her first solo investigation, on the path to becoming the first female Regent, she is determined to get the Seattle Paladins in line. Offering sanctuary to their Kalith enemies is simply unacceptable!
But when she meets Larem, she is inexorably drawn to a dark and valiant warrior who is not at all what he appears to be. As the power struggle between Regents and Paladins rages on, someone starts making attacks on her life. Sasha must choose between loyalty to her own kind and the warrior she loves . . . with the very fate of humanity hanging in the balance.
Slamming his fist into the wall wasn't the smartest thing Larem had ever done, but it was that or punch his roommate. Since the current situation was none of Lonzo's fault, he'd aimed his temper at something that wouldn't bruise-or hit back-although right now a good down-and-dirty fight held some appeal. Pain was slow to register, but his blood stood out in stark relief against the white paint.
"Damn it, Larem, was that really necessary? I hope to God you didn't break anything. It's your night to do the dishes." Lonzo's comment held an equal mix of worry and disgust. "We both know Devlin has no choice in the matter. He's only asking that you and Barak lie low for a while. Besides, it's only temporary."
Larem flexed his hand gingerly. Nothing broken. Nothing solved. He was still caught between two worlds, neither of which wanted to lay claim to him.
"Yeah, right. Why not make it easier on everyone concerned and tell the Regents to make one big cage and stuff all of your pet Kalith into it?" he said bitterly.
Swallowing hard against the acrid taste of his rage, he slowly turned to face his worried friend. "Or better yet, shove us back across the barrier. With any luck, the Sworn Guardians will solve the problem of what to do with us with a few swings of a sword."
Lonzo had his own temper and shoved Larem hard enough, sending him bouncing back against the wall. "Don't be such a dumbass. None of us would let that happen."
Larem got right back up in his friend's face. "Correction, Lonzo. Some of the Seattle Paladins wouldn't want that to happen, but you're paid to follow orders. If the Regents decide they want us gone, what can you do to stop them? If you refuse to rid the world of a few inconvenient Kalith, they can always find others who will."
He looked down the hall toward more of the Paladins. "And they wouldn't have to go far to find them."
A deep voice joined the discussion. "You're wrong, Larem. That's not happening. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. We owe you and the others too much."
Larem wanted to believe Devlin Bane. He really did, but he'd been betrayed too many times by his own kind to easily accept that his former enemies would behave any differently. Gods above, he missed his old life so damned much. As a Blademate to a Sworn Guardian, he'd known his place in the world and served his people with honor.
Here, he accepted a paycheck from the Paladins for teaching weapons practice a few hours a month. He hated living on their charity, but he was still learning his way in this new life. Eventually, he'd be able to strike out on his own and be free to make his own choices. Some days he seriously thought about crossing back over into Kalithia and taking his chances that his death sentence would be rescinded. So far he'd resisted the urge.
Another Paladin came out of the conference room and headed straight for Larem. "This new policy is pure crap, and you know it."
Hunter Fitzsimon glared at Devlin, his green eyes blazing with pure rage. "I have more reason than most to hate what comes boiling across the barrier at us, but Larem is different."
Devlin rolled his huge shoulders, no doubt trying to shrug off some tension. "Listen up, all of you. You'll get no arguments from me on that score. However, until this new rep from the Regents is actually here, we just need to play it careful. Arguing by e-mail won't change anything, but I can and will make our case in person."
"Yeah, right, and if he doesn't buy what you're selling? What then?" Hunter turned his attention to Larem. "Pack up your things. You're coming home with me and Tate. The apartment over the garage is yours as long as you need it."
Devlin looked as if he wanted to argue some more, but then the big man shut his mouth and shrugged. "He's right, Larem. I can't guarantee this new guy will listen to me. If you'll feel safer moving up north with Hunter, I wouldn't blame you. Go camp out in Hunter's apartment, at least until the dust settles and we know more what we're dealing with."
For the first time since Devlin had called the morning meeting to order, Larem didn't feel quite so alone. As tempting as it was to take off with Hunter, the thought of hiding out didn't set well with him. A warrior both by training and by nature, he would not run.
"I'll wait to see what happens. Besides, I'm not the only one affected by this order." Larem nodded down the hallway to where Barak q'Young stood talking to his sister, who had two Kalith children at home. "We can't all go into hiding."
Devlin sighed, clearly tired of dealing with all the bureaucratic bullshit. "This guy is supposed to show up by the end of the week. I'd suggest we do business as usual until then."
Like anything had been usual for Larem in a long, long time. "Are we done? If so, I'm out of here."
Without waiting for an answer, he headed for the gym, intent on working off some anger banging blades with someone, anyone. A few seconds later both Hunter and Lonzo caught up with him. He'd rather have been left alone for a few minutes, but couldn't fault them for their show of support. The least he could do was show his appreciation by bruising them up some.
They walked into the gym and headed straight for the rack of practice weapons. Larem reached for one of Kalith-style curved blades the armorer had recently added to the collection. After a few warm up swings, he stripped off his shirt and faced off against his two friends.
"All right, gentlemen, who wants to bleed first?"
Hunter's wolfish grin was a mirror reflection of Larem's own. With a quick salute the battle was on.
RT Book Reviews: ". . . from burgeoning trust to love makes for a dynamic and touching read. Morgan aces another one!" ~~4 1/2 Stars
Another WOW book from Alexis Morgan's wonderful Paladin Series! . . . Larem is one of those heroes you fall in love with instantly. . . ~~Night Owl Reviews, 5 Stars, TOP PICK!