Chapter Eight

Rhyn's power rippled through him, the shockwave knocking down Gabriel before he could deliver the death blow. Darkyn fell as well, and the walls around the Sanctuary tumbled in the distance. He sat up, bloodied and lightheaded, unable to quell the power roiling through him. He spit blood and pushed himself to his feet. Gabriel and Darkyn rose, their attention going west toward the ocean. He didn't remember his power being so strong. He couldn't catch his balance and steadied himself against a rock.

"Ready when you are," he called to his opponents.

Darkyn growled from deep within his chest before returning to his human form. Gabriel sheathed his weapon. Confused, Rhyn joined them and followed their gazes. He saw nothing but a distant beach and the ocean. He glanced to the rocks where Katie had been, only to find she was gone. He looked back at the beach without seeing her.

His heart felt as if it stopped. His powers were back in full force, without her to steady his control. She'd broken their bond. He didn't have to ask how.

"Gabriel," he said.

Gabriel turned to him. He reached into his pocket and withdrew a small black pouch, pouring its contents- two green gems holding the dust of human souls- into his palm. He dropped them onto the ground and crushed them with his heel. His job was done.

"Gabriel!" Rhyn's voice turned raw with emotion.

"Next time," Darkyn said, agitated. "I kill you both." He opened a portal and disappeared.

Rhyn's head spun with power and emotion. He dropped to his knees, unable to battle both influences for his balance. Pain rippled through him and another wave of power radiated off him, turning the boulders nearby into powder. Gabriel knelt beside him.

"You have to trust me, Rhyn," the assassin said. "I have to go, before she comes. Don't do anything stupid."

The words registered slowly. Rhyn sagged to the ground and watched Gabriel walk away and then disappear. Sorrow and rage pierced him to the core. He could think of nothing but Katie and his ultimate failure.

"Not looking so good, half-breed." Another form knelt beside him, this one with blond hair. "I had no idea you were that half-breed, the brother of the Ancients." The demon righted him and tried to heft him but stopped.

Rhyn blinked himself out of his stupor enough to steady himself. Jared squatted in front of him, looking more bruised than the last time he saw him.

"Now that we're friends, I thought you might let me have a taste of your monkey."

"She's dead," Rhyn whispered. He felt as if he stood outside his body, watching the world around him.

"And the body …"

Rhyn grabbed him and smashed him to the ground. He staggered back, unable to control the power within him. Jared lay still for a moment before sitting up.

"That's some serious power," he said. His eyes began to glow again. "We make a good team, don't you think? We could do a lot together."

"Leave me be."

"For now, I will, but I'll be back to talk. I still owe you a favor. I overheard something you might want to know."

Rhyn flopped onto his back and covered his eyes with one arm. He was alone, roasting in the sun for a long moment before he sensed Kris approach. He lowered his arm enough to see his determined brother, unsteady on his feet with one arm in a sling.

"What happened, Rhyn?" Kris asked, sitting heavily on the ground beside him.

"You're alive."

"I owe you one."

"Kill me," Rhyn said.

"What?"

"You owe me. Kill me!" Rhyn snapped.

"I can hardly walk let alone lift a weapon. At one time, I would've probably agreed," Kris admitted. "What happened here? Where's Gabriel?"

"Took Katie to Death."

Kris was quiet for a moment. Then he said, "Not sure how to break it to Hannah. That would explain why the walls around the Sanctuary are in ruins."

Rhyn saw enough to see that what his brother said was true. He could look straight into the courtyard of the men's wing, and the furious Daniela standing in the middle staring at him.

"I can't control it, Kris. Stuff just happens."

"I see. And Gabriel won't come back."

"Better not." Even as he spoke the words, he knew he'd never completely disregard his friend. He had one, now that Katie was gone. Even thinking of her made him feel as though his insides were burning and dying.

"Come to the Sanctuary. I'll figure something out," Kris said. He struggled to rise.

"I'm staying here."

"Fine. I'll send Toby out to check on you. He's yours now, Rhyn."

"I don't want a fucking angel dogging me everywhere."

"No choice. You were her mate, and Toby was hers."

Rhyn said nothing more, aware it was all he might ever have to remind him of the mortal intended to be his mate. If he had it to do over again, he never would've un-bound her. He would've taken her and run away somewhere safe where no one would ever find them, as he initially wanted to do. In all his years in Hell, he'd never known this kind of pain.

It was too late. He'd failed. He'd lost the only thing that'd ever mattered, and the only person who ever truly loved him. He threw his head back and roared with fury and pain until his throat was raw.

The waves had pulled her under before darkness took her. She awoke with a jerk and looked around at the tiny cottage, lit only by a candle. The bookshelf was empty and weapons lined the opposite wall. Her heart beat like a hummingbird's wings as she took in the one-room cabin. The windows were open and the sky beyond the trees dark. She didn't notice Gabriel in the corner until he spoke.

"Took you long enough."

She jumped at the sound of his voice.

"What happened?" she asked. "I don't think I like this place."

"Welcome to my home."

"Your home? I'm in … Deathland or whatever you call it?"

"Sort of."

"Is Rhyn okay?" she ventured and braced herself for the answer.

"He is."

"Oh, thank God!" she said with a deep sigh.

"Are you well enough to travel?"

"Travel where?"

"At any time, I expect a furious Death to knock on my door. I told you about the loophole, and she won't like that."

"What loophole?" she asked uneasily.

"When someone sacrifices himself for someone else, the assassination contract is void."

"But I'm still dead, aren't I?"

"Eh, tough to say," he said.

"What the hell does that mean, Gabriel?"

"It means, if Death finds you, probably. But if I can get you to the mortal world and back to a Sanctuary, then she'll have to reissue the contract," he explained.

"And then you come to kill me again?" she asked with a frown.

"Nope. Consider not killing you my resignation."

She gazed at him, sensing the importance of what he'd done. Gabriel rose and began pulling weapons from the wall and planting them on his body.

"You sacrificed your soul for Rhyn and your life for me," she said. "You're incredible, Gabriel."

"No offense, but I did both for Rhyn. I barely know you, but he's all I've got."

"Me, too."

"She's okay, too," he said. "Rhyn's gonna flip out when he finds out it's a girl." He glanced at her, his face softening. His eyes went to her stomach.

"Does he know we're okay?"

"No one does or can until I get you back. Death and Darkyn will have every assassin they own roaming the shadow world. We'll take the back way."

"I hope you're good at what you do," she said with some discomfort as he continued to load his body with weapons. She doubted the back way was more dangerous than a short cut.

"The best."

"What happens to you after we get to the Sanctuary?"

"Don't know and don't care."

She rose and tested her legs. She felt weak, but she was alive. Sorta. Her heart ached for Rhyn. Even though she stood in Death's realm with a slim chance of ever seeing the blue sky again, her life had never seemed so clear to her. She'd faced Hell, and now Death. There was nothing else to fear.

"C'mon," Gabriel said and whipped the door open. "This won't be easy."

"I'm ready, Gabriel," she said, in awe of his determination and dedication. At the quiet resolution in her voice, he turned to face her. "Take me back to Rhyn."

"I will. I swear it."

I'm coming, Rhyn.

The Rhyn Trilogy

Katie's Hellion (May 2011)

Katie's Hope (September 2011)

Rhyn's Redemption (March 2012)

Rhyn Trilogy: Origins (October 2011),

available exclusively as part of the Indie Eclective's Halloween short story collection.

Exclusive excerpt from Kissed by Darkness! I'm thrilled to introduce to you, Shéa MacLeod, the up-and-coming indie star and urban fantasy/paranormal romance author of the Sunwalker Saga!

Show this indie some support! Kissed by Darkness and its sequel, Kissed by Fire, are available from Amazon!

The following excerpt copyright 2011 by Shéa MacLeod and used with permission.

Kissed by Darkness

Chapter One

"You're dripping blood on my carpet. Again." The voice was as expressionless as the face. Only a slight glint behind deep brown eyes betrayed the fact that Kabita Jones, my boss and best friend, was extremely peeved.

I could sort of see her point. Last time she'd had to replace the carpet. This time the blood only went up to my elbows and it was mostly dry already. There were just a couple of drips. It wasn't like she couldn't get the place steam cleaned.

"That's what you get for calling me in right after a hunt." I dropped into one of the two chairs in front of her massive mahogany desk. She scowled at me. She didn't like me getting blood all over her fake leather chairs, either. Bad for business, having a client sit down in a pool of vampire blood.

"Here." She tossed me a box of wet wipes, only semi-effective for cleaning blood off things, but certainly better than nothing. I grabbed a wipe and scrubbed at my arm. That's when I noticed a few drops of blood in my cleavage. Gross.

Kabita leaned back in her chair. "How do you like weird?"

As though killing vampires and demon spawn and other creepy crawlies for a living was normal. I tried to raise an eyebrow at her, but I was no Mr. Spock; both went up. "Define weird."

"Weird. As in: 'up your alley' weird."

Ah, she meant blood suckers. Nightwalkers. Minions of Darkness. Otherwise known as vampires. Right.

Except for Kabita and me, vampires weren't weird. They're normal, everyday stuff. Or maybe I should say every-night stuff. It was like saying that baking bread was a weird job for a baker.

Kabita ran a private investigation firm which specialized in hunting down things the government liked to pretend didn't exist. Creatures that would give most normal people nightmares. The government paid us decent money to track and kill the monsters while maintaining a cover as private investigators that did nothing more exciting than investigate cheating spouses. We got excitement and fortune, if not fame. The government got plausible deniability. We all went home happy.

"And how is this weirder than any other 'up my alley' case?" I asked as I cleaned off the last of the blood.

She pushed a file gingerly across the desk. Despite being one of the best demon spawn hunters in the business, Kabita found vampires extremely distasteful, not to mention creepy. Go figure. "It's not an ordinary vamp," she said. "It's a Sunwalker."

I checked to make sure my jaw wasn't lying on her desk. Nope, still attached to my face. "A Sunwalker? You're kidding, right?"

"Our new client wants us to hunt this Sunwalker and kill him, but more importantly, he wants us to retrieve something the Sunwalker stole from his family. He'll fill you in on the details. You're to meet him at this address." She shoved a piece of paper across at me while carefully tucking a strand of long, ink black hair behind her ear.

Despite edging on forty, she didn't have a single strand of gray. I hadn't quite hit thirty yet, twenty-nine to be exact, but I hoped I looked half as good as she did at forty. I had my doubts. My job wasn't exactly the kind that kept one young.

I shook my head. "This is insane. A Sunwalker? As in vampires who can walk in sunlight? You do know they're not real, right? Sunwalkers are just a myth."

She gave me a look. She was good at "the look." "Excuse me, oh Great Slayer of Vampires, but you don't have a choice. Not if you want to keep your job."

Which I did, and she knew it. There's something so immensely satisfying about going to work and hacking someone or something's head off. They didn't usually let you do that at, say, the pharmaceutical company or the post office, even if that someone really deserved it. They kind of frowned on it, actually. I also got to wear jeans and really cool kick-ass boots every day.

Truth was, though, Kabita knew I loved a good challenge. She wasn't just my boss, she was also my friend and would never give me anything I couldn't handle, no matter how much I bitched and moaned about an assignment. I was damn good at killing vamps. A Sunwalker would just be a little more … tricky. Not only were they not supposed to exist, but how were you supposed to find a vampire that could walk around in daylight? Heck, he probably even had a nice tan.

"Jesus, Kabita. What have you gotten me into this time?" It was rhetorical and accompanied by an eye roll. I snatched the paper off the desk. "Fine. I'll meet him after I take a shower."

"Good idea."

I just glared at her. Sarcastic witch.

Her return smile was annoyingly beatific.

I crossed my legs and leaned back in my chair, trying desperately not to look like I wanted to crawl out of my skin. Kabita must not have met our new client in person. He was giving me the heebie-jeebies big time. Granted, when it came to humans, my Spidey senses weren't so accurate, but seriously, there was something a little off with this guy.

The room we were meeting in was all dark wood paneling and big leather chairs, plush wine-red carpet and even plusher drapes. All very manly. All very overbearing. And the client? Well, he was just as bad.

Sure he was good looking and suave. Definitely suave, but in a creepy Julian Sands kind of way. Like you wouldn't be surprised to see this guy hanging out with royals or schmoozing with the rest of the rich and powerful, but you sure wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley. He made my skin itch.

Then again, maybe I was wrong. After all, Kabita had vetted the guy and Kabita was never wrong. If she met him in person. Dear gods, I hoped she met him in person.

So, Mr. ah …" Not Sands. Bloody hell, what was it? I snuck a glance at the file. "Mr. Darroch. How can I help you exactly?"

He gave me what I could only interpret as a smarmy smile. I hated smarmy. Made me feel like I needed a shower. "Please, Ms. Bailey, call me Brent." I tried not to wince. Ever since my brief flirtation with college, I'd hated the name Brent. Long story, but let's just say … ew.

"Right." I forced a smile. "Brent. How can I help you? I hear you have a slight problem with a Sunwalker?" I couldn't quite keep the disbelief out of my voice.

He quirked a smile at that. Not so smarmy this time. In fact, he seemed genuinely amused. "I know. Sounds insane, doesn't it? Rich businessman chasing after a mythical Sunwalker." He leaned forward earnestly. I was surprised. He did earnest pretty well. "Then again, until a few years ago, you believed vampires and lycanthropes and demons were pure fiction."

He had a point. Once upon a time, we'd all thought the monsters that dwelt among us were just a myth, but that had changed, at least for those of us who'd been sworn to protect the rest of our kind. No one knew that better than me.

"Sunwalkers are real, Ms. Bailey. Or at least one of them is real." He leaned back and steepled his fingers together in an excellent Dr. Evil impression.

"Excuse me? Did you say one? As in there is one Sunwalker?" Images of the Highlander flooded my mind. There can be only one. I really had to stop watching so much TV. My mother was right; it was rotting my brain.

Darroch nodded. "Yes. According to legend, there were more, once upon a time. Dozens of Sunwalkers lived among us, if not hundreds. Now there is just one left."

How did he know that? "And what does this Sunwalker have to do with this object you want us to retrieve?"

"The object is a family heirloom. A necklace. Not particularly valuable except, perhaps, to collectors of the arcane."

My ears perked up. "The arcane?" Oh, juicy. I did love a good magical twist. Kept things interesting.

He nodded. "According to family legend, the necklace was created by an ancestor of mine who dabbled in the magic arts. He created the necklace, a simple amulet on a chain, as a sort of ward with magical symbols and so on. I don't know if it ever held any real magic, but it certainly doesn't now. However, it might be of interest to a collector or a museum as a curiosity more than anything."

I always found it interesting when a client was willing to kill to get back an object he claimed had no value. Frankly, that's just not normal. In my experience, the object usually had a great deal of value to someone, somewhere, otherwise killing someone for it wasn't worth the risk. Granted, in this case, it was a Sunwalker he wanted me to kill, so there wasn't exactly any risk involved. At least not to Brent Darroch.

"About 20 years ago," Darroch continued, "this particular Sunwalker stole the necklace. I believe he thought it would give him some sort of power." He laughed, but the laugh sounded forced. "I'll bet he was surprised to find it a useless hunk of metal. In any case, it has sentimental value and I want it back."

His eyes bored into me like twin icicles. I forced back a shiver. "I also want you to destroy this Sunwalker. He is extremely dangerous. One is bad enough, but should he begin to perpetuate his kind again, the world as we know it will be destroyed as it almost was once before."

I'd no doubt he was right about that. I could just imagine the havoc an army of Sunwalkers could wreak on humanity. Humanity wreaked enough havoc on itself; it didn't need any help from the undead. Besides which, part of our purview was to hunt and kill any and all supernatural creatures who posed a threat to humanity. Vampires were certainly in that category and, I imagined, so were Sunwalkers, being of the same ilk and all that.

"All right, Mr. … Brent. I'll see what I can do. Have you any idea where the Sunwalker is now? How I can find him?"

He wrote something on a sticky note and handed it to me. It was a name: Cordelia Nightwing. "You can find this woman in a night club called Fringe. Maybe she can help you. Go carefully, Ms. Bailey." He leaned back gracefully, his leather chair creaking slightly, and steepled his fingers together again. Boy, he had the Doctor Evil thing down pat.

"I always do." I glanced down at the name on the note. Please don't let her be another nutter.

Since nightclubs in Portland didn't open until late, I decided to call it a day and head home for some much deserved sleep. First, I wanted to drop in on Kabita's cousin, Inigo Jones.

Inigo's a clairvoyant, or something of that nature, and into all kinds of weird stuff. Well, I was sure it wasn't because of his clairvoyance that he was into weird stuff, but more because he was just, well, weird. Not to mention hot. But I tried not to think about that. After all, he was Kabita's cousin and I was pretty sure there was something in the Best Friend Rules that stated that best friends couldn't date each other's cousins. Even if there wasn't, the guy was like twenty or something. Practically a kid. A really hot kid, but a kid none the less.

Granted, twenty was only a few years younger than my own twenty-nine, but I felt a lot older than my years most of the time. The job sort of did that to you.

"Get your hormones under control, girl," I muttered under my breath before pressing the button for the doorbell. It had obviously been way too long since I'd had a boyfriend.

Three rings later, Inigo stood in the open doorway wearing a pair of red silk pajama bottoms and nothing else. His shoulder length gold and taffy hair was artfully tousled (damn him) and his usually brilliant blue eyes were heavy lidded with sleep.

He bared his teeth at me, and not in a nice way. "Whaddya want?" came out more a growl than a question. The growl did things to my libido that I'd rather not think about. I barely refrained from clenching my thighs together.

"Sorry to wake you, Sleeping Beauty." I stepped past him into the dim living room which was just a touch too warm for my taste. "But I need your help with a little project."

"At," he hesitated and squinted at the wall clock hanging above the television, its arms glowing faintly in the darkness, "ten in the morning?"

"Sorry, but Kabita's got me working for this new client. He wants me to kill a Sunwalker."

Inigo blinked. "Uh-huh."

"You see anything?" I didn't mean in the physical sense.

He shook his head. "Nah. Not before coffee. And I'm not drinking any 'cause I'm going back to bed the minute you leave. Which will be … ?"

"Soon," I assured him. I crossed my arms under my chest and gave my already impressive cleavage a subtle boost. Oh, I was such a bad girl. "I just need your help tonight. There's this woman, Cordelia Nightwing. She works at some club called Fringe. You know it?"

He grinned, his eyes on my chest. He knew exactly what I was doing. "Yeah, I know it."

"I take it that this is one of those weirdo clubs with mermaids swimming in fish tanks or something like that."

He tilted his head as he laughed and the sun streaming through the open door picked out the gold in his hair. "Yeah, something like that."

Down, libido, down. "Well, this Cordelia is supposed to know something. Something that will help me track the Sunwalker I'm hunting. So, can you help me out? Go to the club with me, find this Cordelia chick and find out what she knows?"

"Yeah, sure, if you promise to leave me in peace and let me sleep. Unless you want to join me?" His grin was pure naughtiness.

I rolled my eyes at him. "As if. OK, I'll pick you up at ten tonight. I've got another hunt. I'll try and get it done before then." I headed for the door.

"Make it midnight," he called. "The weirdos never come out before then."

I tossed him a look over my shoulder. "Obviously."

Kissed by Darkness, available now from : .com/Kissed-Darkness-Sunwalker-Saga-ebook/dp/B0058PIWJ8/

About Shéa

Shéa MacLeod has dreamed of writing novels since before she could hold a crayon. She totally blames her mother.

Her love affair with books began at a very young age when her mom would load her and her brothers into the red Radio Flyer wagon and haul them down to the local library. For Shéa, the library was a magical place, each book opening up a new world. Her favorite poem as a child was 'Jabberwocky', and her favorite authors were Agatha Christie and Edgar Allan Poe. Which probably explains a lot.

After living in Portland, Oregon most of her life, she now makes her home in an Edwardian town house in London just a stone's throw from the local cemetery. Which also explains a lot. Fortunately, the neighbors are quiet.

Check out Shéa's website at: .com/

Like free ebooks? Lizzy and Shéa are members of the Indie Eclective: Books Crossing Genres, a group of nine talented, passionate indie authors, many of whom have free ebooks available to whet your appetite! Check them out at: . Members include:

Heather Adkins, young adult fantasy author, The Temple

Julia Crane, young adult fantasy author, Coexist: Keegan's Chronicles

Lizzy Ford, paranormal romance author of the War of Gods series and Rhyn Trilogy

Talia Jager, young adult author, Damaged: Natalie's Story

P.J. Jones, parody author, Melvin the Dry Cleaning Zombie and Vampire Shoe Warehouse

Shéa MacLeod, paranormal/urban fantasy author, Kissed by Darkness (Sunwalker Saga)

M. Edward McNally, fantasy author, The Sable City (The Norothian Cycle)

Alan Nayes, paranormal romance and fantasy author, Gargoyles (Resurrection Trilogy)

Jack Wallen, zombie and thriller author, I, Zombie I (I, Zombie Trilogy)