Shadows end, p.1
Shadow's End, p.1Part #9 of Elder Races series by Thea Harrison
PRAISE FOR THEA HARRISON AND HER NOVELS
“Black Dagger Brotherhood readers will love [this]! . . . A smart heroine, a sexy alpha hero and a dark, compelling world. I’m hooked!”
—J. R. Ward, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Bourbon Kings
“Thea Harrison is a master storyteller, and she transported me to a fascinating world I want to visit again and again. It’s a fabulous, exciting read that paranormal romance readers will love.”
—Christine Feehan, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dark Blood
“Smoldering sensuality, fascinating characters and an intriguing world . . . Thea Harrison has a new fan in me!”
—Nalini Singh, New York Times bestselling author of Archangel’s Enigma
“A truly original urban fantasy romance.”
—Angela Knight, New York Times bestselling author of Love Bites
“Sexy and action-packed . . . Held me transfixed from beginning to end!”
—Anya Bast, New York Times bestselling author of Capturing Caroline
“A colorful, compelling world with magic so real, the reader can feel it.”
—Shannon K. Butcher, national bestselling author of Edge of Betrayal
“Fun, feral and fiercely exciting—I can’t get enough! Thea Harrison supplies deliciously addictive paranormal romance.”
—Ann Aguirre, national bestselling author of Breakout
“Sexy and romantic and refreshingly different.”
“An epic story of myth, mayhem and love that is sure to keep readers satisfied and breathing fire!”
Berkley Sensation Titles by Thea Harrison
Novels of the Elder Races
Game of Shadows Novels
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2015 Teddy Harrison.
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eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-15665-4
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / December 2015
Cover design by Adam Auerbach.
Interior text design by Tiffany Estreicher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Praise for Thea Harrison and her novels
Berkley Sensation Titles by Thea Harrison
With one blunt forefinger, Graydon tapped out a text on his smartphone.
We can’t put off meeting any longer. I can’t explain why in a text, but we’re running out of time. I need . . .
He paused as an onslaught of emotion cascaded through him.
I need to see you.
I need to touch your cheek, clasp your hand.
I need to look into your eyes, your beautiful eyes.
I need to know the precious light inside you has not died.
That was when the vision hit him.
He was used to having visions. He’d had them his entire, very long life. The Gaelic had many words and terms for such a thing. An Da Shealladh or “the two sights” was one of the most famous of them.
When he was tired to the point of distraction, or hungry to the point of feeling hollow, he saw images of places he had not yet seen or things he had not yet done, and he knew he would see those places, and he would do those things. Eventually.
The vision rolled over him as inescapably as if he had plunged into a vast ocean and water had closed over his head.
Over the last two hundred years, the scene had become familiar. He had seen it so many times. It held a scent of danger, smoky like gunpowder and sharp as a stiletto.
White, like snow, blanketed the ground near a dark, tempestuous shore. The white was broken by rocks as black as midnight. Nearby, a behemoth of a building crouched atop a sprawling bluff like a huge predator. When he looked down, he saw bright scarlet blooming on the white ground, like roses opening to the sun.
Only the scarlet wasn’t flowers, but blood.
His blood, dripping between his fingers.
The boy’s voice penetrated the images, and the vision snapped.
It didn’t fully dissipate but lingered at the edge of his mind, ready to surge back the moment he became too tired, hungry or careless.
Frustrated, he shoved it aside through sheer force of will. He was on the clock and didn’t have time for this shit. He didn’t care if the vision returned later, just as long as he could focus on his real surroundings for now. He could wrestle with his inner demons when he was on his own time.
As he fought to clear his head, a solid, prosaic reality settled into place around him.
He wore combat boots, jeans and a leather jacket, and he had an assault rifle slung over one shoulder. Beside him stood a young, curious dragon in human form.
Graydon’s assault rifle was a just-in-case accessory, since the most important duty he had that night was watching the boy. If something outlandish did occur, any action he took would be purely defensive.
They stood at the top of Cuelebre Tower at night. The Tower was in the heart of the Wyr demesne, eighty stories of financial and political dominance stamped onto the New York landscape. The air felt frigid and bracing, and fluffy white snowflakes were beginning to drift and eddy on a fitful breeze.
No other building in the immediate vicinity was as tall as Cuelebre Tower. Some people claimed that was the hubris of Dragos Cuelebre, the Lord of the Wyr, multibillionaire and head of Cuelebre Enterprises.
Along with the other six sentinels, Graydon knew better. Whil
Between avian Wyr and the occasional helicopter, the Tower rooftop saw a lot of traffic. Dragos’s decision to bribe the city council into keeping the surrounding buildings shorter had been based on security considerations, pure and simple.
As Liam Cuelebre, Dragos’s son and Prince of the Wyr, stared up at Graydon, he realized he hadn’t responded to the boy. He cleared his throat. “Yeah, what is it, sport?”
The wind ruffled Liam’s dark blond hair. His wide, dark violet gaze was so like his mother’s. “Is everything okay?”
Graydon had been standing frozen for too long, and while Liam might appear to be a sunny-natured, ordinary boy, he had been born a mere nine months ago and there was nothing ordinary about him.
Physically he appeared to be a tall, handsome twelve-year-old, but that was the result of the Powerful dragon in him straining to become fully grown.
In his human form, Liam was bigger and stronger than any normal twelve-year-old. In his Wyr form, his dragon was already twice the size of any of the gryphons—and the gryphons were some of the largest Wyr in the world. Graydon’s Wyr form was easily the size of an SUV, a massive, muscled blend of eagle and lion.
In terms of sheer strength, Liam could also overpower any of the sentinels, although that didn’t mean the boy could take any of them in a fight, since the sentinels had age, cunning and experience on their side. Not that any of them fought Liam in anything other than a carefully controlled training exercise.
Intellectually, the boy’s reading was at college level, his math skills were off the charts, and the gods only knew how good his truthsense was, or any of his other senses, for that matter. Sweet-natured as he was, much of him remained a mystery.
So Graydon ruffled Liam’s hair affectionately and told him a version of the truth. “Sorry, I got lost in thought. Everything’s as normal as can be. Wanna listen in for a minute?”
The boy’s gaze sparked with interest. “Sure.”
Graydon said into his mic, “Watch your language, folks. I’m putting a guest on the line for a few minutes.”
Even though the security detail’s channel was encrypted, hackers were a constant concern, and nobody used real names over the comm link. Still, everyone knew the identity of Graydon’s visitor.
Alexander, the pegasus, was the other sentinel on duty that night. His rich, warm voice came down the comm link. He sounded amused. “Roger that.”
Graydon removed his headset and handed it to Liam. “If you just hold it up to your ear, I’ll be able to hear it too.”
His eyes wide with fascination, Liam nodded. He held the headset up to listen to the security detail.
Propping one booted foot on a railing, Graydon crossed his arms over his knee and surveyed the surrounding area as events unfolded like clockwork. He nodded to himself in satisfaction. He liked an evening that held no surprises.
All the rooftops of the neighboring buildings had been checked and cleared, and the last team member had settled into place. Eighty stories below, on the ground, a crowd of paparazzi had formed along the sidewalk that bordered the front steps of the Tower. Legally, the sidewalk was as close to Cuelebre Towers as the paparazzi were allowed to get without an express invitation to a press conference.
Graydon’s smartphone buzzed in the front pocket of his jeans, a short vibration that indicated he had received a text message or an email. He ignored it for the moment, as he gave the rooftops of the surrounding buildings one last, narrow-eyed check.
Three blocks away a sleek, black limousine turned a corner. Dragos and Pia were arriving right on time. The limo pulled to a smooth stop at the front steps of the Tower.
Hugh, a gargoyle Wyr who alternated between acting as Liam’s bodyguard and a member of Pia’s personal security team, stepped forward to open the rear door. Bending slightly, he held out a hand in invitation.
Slender female fingers grasped Hugh’s. Graydon might be eighty stories away, but his sharp gryphon’s eyes picked up the brilliant flash of diamond on the woman’s ring finger.
First Pia’s long slender legs emerged, then the woman herself appeared as she climbed out of the car, her gleaming pale blond hair piled high on her head. She wore a silver sequined dress and a luxurious-looking white faux fur stole, and she shone like a slender pillar of white fire in the night.
Immediately following Pia’s exit, her husband Dragos poured out of the limo, nearly seven feet tall and three hundred pounds of hard, muscled male, the most lethal Wyr predator in the world.
The white shirt of his tux emphasized his dark bronze skin, straight black hair and piercing gold eyes. Several of the paparazzi took a step back, their instincts telling them that danger walked in their midst. They were the smart ones of the bunch.
Their instinctive caution didn’t stop them from doing their jobs. Lights exploded from cameras all around the couple, and Dragos turned his face away. His expression looked hard and bored. He hated having his picture taken.
Pia and Dragos climbed the steps and disappeared from Graydon’s sight as they stepped into the building. The paparazzi’s attention splintered. Individuals wandered in different directions, several talking on cell phones. With a near silent, collective sigh, the security detail outside relaxed.
Alexander said, “Stand down. That’s a wrap for the night.”
Graydon held out his hand for the headset, and Liam handed it over.
“Nice work, everybody,” Graydon said into the mic. “The kitchen will be serving a late supper for the next hour. Chef said there would be prime rib in the cafeteria for people who pulled security duty tonight.”
A flurry of good nights came down the link.
Liam grinned at him. “One of these days I’m gonna be on one of those details.”
“Yeah?” Graydon returned his grin. “One of these days, you might be leading one.”
“Cool.” Liam fell into step beside him as he strode across the rooftop, heading for the staircase. “Can I have some prime rib too?”
Earlier that evening, the two of them had polished off an extra-large pepperoni pizza while watching old Hammer House of Horror episodes, but the boy was a bottomless pit.
“Of course you can,” Graydon said. The cafeteria was located just one story below the penthouse. The upper stories of Cuelebre Tower were secure, so he told Liam, “You go on to the cafeteria.”
Liam paused on the steps to look back at him. “Aren’t you coming?”
“I’m gonna check in with your mom and dad,” he told the boy. “Come back up to the penthouse when you’re done eating.”
“Okay,” said Liam. He gave Graydon a hug and a quick smile. “Thanks for letting me hang out with you this evening.”
His expression softened, and he returned the hug. “My pleasure, sport.”
He watched as Liam ran ahead, then he continued on his way to the penthouse.
That evening, Dragos and Pia had attended one of the major political functions of the year, a kick-off event that started two weeks of meetings, suppers and balls that surrounded the winter holiday celebrations.
For the Elder Races, the time around the summer solstice was the main political season. Winter solstice marked a smaller, secondary season. Some politics were involved, but those meetings tended to be quieter and smaller.
Much of the focus of the winter season was social, as it was the time to celebrate the Masque of the Gods. Every year in New York, the numbers of the Elder Races swelled as Dragos hosted one of the biggest, most elaborate masques in the world, and dignitaries and celebrities came from all the other demesnes to attend.
Once Graydon stepped inside the penthouse, he set his rifle aside gently. His cell phone vibrated again, and he pulled it out of his pocket to check his messages.
The messages ap
He gazed down at it. He hadn’t typed, “I need to see you,” as he had intended.
Instead, his screen read: I need you.
The cool silence in the spacious, luxurious apartment pressed against his ears. Gently, he tapped the erase button until the text disappeared.
Pia appeared in the doorway. She had slipped off her faux fur stole and carried it slung over one shoulder. Up close, she was even more eye catching, as the sequins in her dress picked up every fraction of light and magnified it.
She and Dragos had not yet made a formal announcement about the fact that she was pregnant again. So far, only their inner circle knew. While she hadn’t yet begun to show, the pregnancy suited her. Her skin and hair looked more lustrous than ever.
She gave him a tired, cheerful smile. “Everything go all right?”
“Of course,” he told her. “I love spending time with Liam. He’s gone to get a second supper in the cafeteria.”
She shook her head. “Why does that not surprise me?”
“He’ll be up in a half an hour or so.”
Dragos entered the room, his tuxedo tie loosened. He had shrugged out of his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. He nodded a greeting to Graydon.
Even though Graydon had already heard a preliminary report, he asked, “How did the evening go?”
With a cynical twist of his lips, Dragos replied, “Same old, same old.”
Pia rolled her eyes. Leaning against the end of the couch, she slipped off her sparkly high heeled pumps.
“There was plenty of ammunition for the gossip magazines. The Light Fae ambassador from Brazil got drunk, took off all his clothes and went for a swim in the big fountain in the hotel lobby, and the heir to the Algerian witches demesne vomited all over the Demonkind prime minister’s Stuart Weitzman diamond stiletto shoes.” She paused thoughtfully. “If you ask me, I think he did that on purpose. The prime minister was being very snippy.”
Graydon gave her a brief smile, then turned to Dragos. “I know it’s late, but I need a few moments.”
Dragos and Pia exchanged a glance. Bending to scoop up her shoes in one hand, she said, “I’m headed for a shower and bed.”
Shadow's End by Thea Harrison / Romance & Love / Fantasy have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes