SWORD (Book #3)
“And Death will live among them in the guise of a child…”
Grappling with her new identity as “Bridge,” a being meant to herald the end for all of humanity, isn’t even Allie’s biggest problem. A new set of rules around Seer culture and her relationship with the infamous Seer infiltrator, Revik, keep getting her in trouble, and the power-hungry Rook she helped put in the White House wants war with China.
Then the boy appears. A sociopath with all of the energetic markings of Syrimne, a deadly telekinetic who killed thousands during World War I, he doesn’t appear to have aged in one hundred years.
Worse, he thinks Allie belongs to him.
*Warning: this book contains graphic language, sex, and violence. Mature readers only. Not intended for young readers.*
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LIGHTS FLASHED, IMAGE capture devices aimed at my face and body as I entered the foyer of the luxury New Delhi hotel, surrounded by Adhipan seers. I walked as erect as I could in the high-heeled shoes and long dress, conscious of the human press surrounding us, the scrutiny on my body and face.
I managed to keep the smile plastered on, but my fingers gripped Vash’s arm like it was a life preserver.
From what I could tell, the ancient seer by my side was a lot more relaxed. His smile was warm and genuine compared to mine, his light seemingly unfazed by the lenses and sweaty human faces surrounding us on all sides. Beaming around at everyone as if he was at a party, he waved at a few reporters, saying hello to them personally, clasping arms and hands, patting fingers and even heads.
They stared back at him blankly, then smiled in return as if in spite of themselves, which is the effect Vash had on most people. A few of them even clasped his hand in return, and said hello to him back, their smiles sliding into genuine grins.
Watching the effect he had on them, I thanked my lucky stars again I’d managed to talk Balidor into letting me bring the old seer with me.
It wasn’t only Indian press who stared at us and talked excitedly into microphones as we passed. In fact, most of the insignias I saw on cameras and microphones were from Western news feeds, primarily those based out of Europe and the United States, although I guessed a few had Chinese and South American origins based on the languages the reporters spoke. I also overheard at least one reporter from Japan.
Regardless, news of my arrival here had definitely spread.
The reality of my newfound status in the human world hit like a blow to the face.
News crews slammed up against the velvet ropes like rampaging cattle, held back only by the line of seers covering security as I entered the long hallway. I could feel the feed broadcasts playing in headsets as they narrated my entrance, capturing my every facial expression in real time. Since I wasn’t subject to the image ban, being officially a criminal and terrorist, they were free to speculate with impunity about every aspect of my person.
Self-consciousness about the dress flickered around the edges of my light, even as I fought to hold my expression still. I knew looking overly nervous wouldn’t do me any favors, in terms of how the reporters assessed my performance here tonight.
Still, I was nervous.
For one, there was the possibility SCARB might go back on their agreement with Balidor and the Adhipan and try to arrest me, or simply gun me down versus trying to put me in a World Court lab or prison.
Then there was the real reason I was nervous. The more emotionally-charged reason.
Like, the fact that Revik was likely watching these live feeds right now.
Vash agreed at once to accompany me when I asked him, although there was a fair bit of clicking and head-shaking and debate amongst the remaining elders on the Council of Seven.
Balidor’s reaction verged more into heart attack country. I saw veins throb on his temple I’d never seen before, even as he stared at me and Vash like we’d both lost our minds.
Then again, if Balidor had his way, I likely wouldn’t have left the Pamir at all.
Balidor’s job was to nag me about security though, so I expected it. I desperately needed him to do his job, especially now, with half the world on the brink of all-out war. As leader of the Adhipan, the elite unit of infiltrators charged with protecting the Seven’s elders––and, incidentally, me––Balidor had a heavy load these days.
I wasn’t insensitive to that, either.
On the other hand, it simply wasn’t possible for me to stay as safe and behind closed doors as Balidor would have liked. Doing so, in fact, would be akin to hunkering down in a cave––literally, in my case––and waiting for the Apocalypse. Vash agreed with me that such an approach was both impractical and highly irresponsible.
Like it or not, I was The Bridge. Hiding was not an option.
Anyway, there was Revik, as I said.
Revik certainly hadn’t been hunkering down in any caves lately.
“You look lovely, my dear,” Vash murmured in Prexci, likely to get my mind off that train of thought. “Shall we venture inside?”
Realizing I’d been standing in the foyer for a few seconds too long, I squeezed his arm, using my fingers to acquiesce in seer sign language. When I looked up, his dark eyes held a faint affection, but I saw the worry there, too.
The press followed us the rest of the way to the stairs, their vid-lights illuminating the crimson rug that ran up the marble steps between massive white columns.
Careful not to trip in the long dress, I made it all the way to the top of the next landing before I looked back on the crowd following us.
That time, I managed a warmer smile, and even a small wave.
A few people shouted up questions when I did, pushing harder against the ropes, fighting to continue recording my image around the shoulders and heads of the heavily-muscled security team.
“Alyson!” I heard one shout. “Where’s your husband tonight? Is he here?”
I flinched a little, my smile faltering as I lowered my hand from the wave.
Vash tugged on my fingers a second time, pulling me away from the crowd.
“They are waiting for you, my dear,” he said softly.
I nodded, but didn’t tear my eyes off the reporters right away.
I tried again not to think about the fact that he was probably watching me even now on the live feeds, along with however-many million humans and seers. I tried to shove out of my mind that he likely would have heard the question I was just asked, and, knowing him, he would have strained for my answer––and noticed every nuance of my facial expression when I didn’t.
But it was already too late to try and get him out of my head.
I should have known even the Adhipan and Vash couldn’t keep him out, not if he really wanted to reach me.
His voice rose softly in my mind.
I like the gown, love, he murmured.
I tensed, fighting to keep my reaction off my face.
His pain slid into me, coursing through every vein in my body.
You look… He let his light linger, heated, sensual. …good in a dress. Better than good. Fuckable beyond belief. Gaos, Alyson. What are you trying to do to me?
His pain intensified, making mine unbearable.
I fought it, trying to blank my mind, but my light flared. It flashed out in a sudden, uncontrolled burst, bright around my physical form.
Vash stiffened, grasping my fingers on his arm.
Not that you don’t always make me want to fuck, wife, the voice added, softer. Feeling me flinch, he smiled through the connection between us. His light slid deeper, slow, taking his time. But dearest, I admit… The endearment made me flinch. I’ve got a hard-on you wouldn’t believe right now. What do you say? How about we blow off the party for a few hours, so I can show you? I’d like to show you a few times, actually… a lot of times. I might rip that fucking dress off you, in fact, love…
His pain flooded into me, making my heart stutter, my mind. He pulled on me as he opened, until I let out a low gasp, my light coiling into his even as I fought to pull it back.
My heart clenched then, really hearing his words.
He was here. This wasn’t him screwing with me.
He was really here, somewhere.
Vash gripped me tighter, drawing me away from the cameras’ lights. We’d only just turned, about to mount the next set of stairs, when Balidor appeared.
Really, he more leapt at us, exploding out of the line of guards, fury in his expression. He was by my side in a heart beat, clutching my bare arm in his fingers as he pulled his sidearm, keeping his body in front of mine. He wore a classic black tuxedo, which only made the whole thing that much more surreal.
With his oddly human good looks and light gray eyes, he looked more like a movie star than a 400-year-old infiltrator, which is what he was.
Shouts rose from the humans as the gun grew visible. I looked down the stairs, dimly aware of the press as they reacted in alarm below, then with excitement. Those holding cameras and other image capturing devices began straining forward to film us again, while the reporters standing next to them began talking more urgently into their microphones.
Balidor didn’t seem to notice––or care.
“Is he here?” he said to me, his gray eyes scanning faces. “Alyson! Is he here? Alyson! Answer me!”
From Revik, I felt a flicker of amusement…
Right before his presence evaporated from my light.