DARKNESS ON FIRE
by Alexis Morgan
Release Date: September, 2011
A warrior in need of a battle he can fight . . .
Penn has struggled for years to overcome a devastating injury to his sword arm. He's been forced to sit on the sidelines and watch his friends fight and die while all he can do is watch.
Then Devlin offers him a mission: a mysterious woman called to warn them that someone is threatening the stability of the barrier near the Yellowstone caldera, which could destroy both worlds. Penn packs his guns and his sword and heads for Wyoming to assess the situation.
Brought to our world as an infant, Jora b'Larth has spent her entire life living in fear of being discovered by her people's enemies, the Paladins. But now the stakes are too high to worry about her own safety.
Penn and Jora join forces to face a common enemy. To save their worlds, they'll risk their lives-and their hearts.
An hour later, Penn stood outside Devlin's door with a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder. He couldn't think of a single thing he'd done wrong, at least not lately. Awhile back he and Devlin had come to an agreement. Penn would try harder not to screw up and Bane wouldn't kick his worthless ass out of the Paladins permanently. So far, they'd each held up their end of the deal.
"Are you coming in, Sebastian, or you going to stand out in the hallway all night?" The thick door did little to muffle Devlin's bellow.
Penn braced himself for the worst and walked into the office. After dropping into the seat facing Devlin's desk. "You wanted to see me?"
Devlin sniffed the air and gave him the evil eye. "Did you have to show up smelling like wet dog? We do have showers and clean clothes right down the hall."
Penn had thought about using them, but had decided against it to get this meeting over with quickly. Depending on what kind of burr Devlin had up his backside, Penn might have the rest of his life to clean up.
He shrugged. "Cullen said you wanted me as soon as I got off shift. I'm here. What do you want?"
Devlin leaned back in his chair and gave Penn a hard-eyed stare. "How's the hand?"
Penn clenched his teeth. It always came down to that, didn't it? At least Devlin didn't pussyfoot around like the others did, checking out the thick, ropy scar that transected Penn's right hand and wrist whenever they thought he wouldn't notice. He couldn't, wouldn't lie to Devlin. They'd served together too long for that.
"About the same. Laurel sees some improvement in my right hand, and Barak thinks I'm doing better fighting with my left." Penn forced his hand to relax. "I'm not convinced either of them are right."
Devlin nodded as if Penn had just confirmed something he'd suspected all along. "Okay, then. The fact that we're shorthanded around here won't come as a surprise to you. I've lost you to normal duty. Hunter is doing better, but he's got his own patch of hell to guard up north. Even if I need him, he's an hour out at best. Cullen is back to fighting, but he doesn't much like it.
"Here's the thing. I got a phone call from a woman this morning. No idea who she is or how she got my number. I sicced D.J. and Cullen on back-tracing it to see if they can identify the caller, but they haven't managed to find out anything other than she's good at hiding her tracks."
Penn was impressed. Very few could out cyber-dance the two Paladins. What did it have to do with him?
"I'd like to write this whole thing off as a crackpot call, but I can't. That's were you come in." Devlin picked up a tablet and read from his notes.
"According to this mystery woman, the caldera under Yellowstone is becoming increasingly unstable. Now, normally that wouldn't concern us. The few stretches of barrier in that area are too small to be of much use to those on the other side. And we all know there's nothing anyone can do if that pressure cooker decides to blow its top."
Penn shifted restlessly. "Did you call me in here for a geology lesson?"
Devlin shot him a hard look. "I'm telling you all of this because this woman thinks that the instability isn't natural. She's evidently found evidence someone is screwing around with the caldera, trying to siphon off the geothermal energy."
There was a sudden chill in the room. "Siphoning it off to where?"
Devlin looked bleak. "Across the barrier. Her words, by the way, not mine."
"Who the hell is this woman?"
"Good question-and that is why you're here. You're the only man I can spare to find out what the hell is going on. Go home, pack what you need for a few days, grab a few hours sleep, and then get your ass to Wyoming."
He pulled out a stack of cash from a drawer and shoved it across the desk toward Penn. "I'd like to keep this whole mess off the books, so that means no airline reservations, no charge cards. I don't trust anyone in the Regents right now enough to want them involved."
Penn's hand shook as he scooped up the money. Holy hell! A mission-a real honest-to-God mission that required a warrior's skills. Other than providing backup when Hunter Fitzsimon had needed some help, Penn had done nothing for months except park his ass out in the alley while his friends fought and died-and then died again.
Being needed felt damn good. Being trusted to do the job right had him sitting up straighter and wishing he had stopped to clean up before reporting in.
Devlin tossed him the notepad. "You're to drive to some town called Wolf Cave, check in to the only motel in the place and wait."
"For what?" Penn asked as he read over the notes written in Devlin's barely legible scrawl.
Devlin looked purely disgusted. "I wish I knew, Penn. For both our sakes, I really wish I knew.