Bloodsworn: Bound by Magic
Worlds collide when a man of magic is forced to take a woman of science as his bride.
Powerful Bloodsworn, Devlin Kel-Tragar, is sent to Earth to claim his prophecy bride, a task he has no heart for until he learns that research chemist, Avera St. John, is also his Starmate, the one woman in the universe born just for him. Now he'll do anything to claim her. But will his slow seduction of his lady mate give his enemy time to take away the one thing Devlin can't afford to lose?
Avera is drawn to her new neighbor, Devlin Kel, despite the mystery she senses surrounding him. A mystery that blows her safe little scientific world wide open when strange men with swords try to kill her and Devlin shows up and blasts them with magic. Real, honest-to-goodness magic! Her world is suddenly changed forever, and Avera must decide if she is able to accept those changes along with the man responsible.
Earth, Northern California, Six Months Earlier
Panic sped through Avera St. John's veins like a drug, making her heart race and her whole body tremble. She lay on her side, lungs burning for oxygen despite the air she sucked in through her nose and around the gag in her mouth. Her arms strained against the cord binding her wrists behind her back, muscles tense with the urge to fight, to break free.
Stay calm. Don't let panic overrun your common sense. Panic will only get you killed.
The memory of her father's commanding voice washed through her, dulling the sharp edge of fear enough to let her catch her breath. He was so right. From the moment she'd felt the knife at her throat she'd let panic make her a victim. She hadn't used any of the moves her father had taught her. Hours of self-defense lessons gone to waste.
Stop whining and use your head, Avera. From the moment a Marine is captured he's planning his escape. Don't just lay there, think about what you can do to put the bastard down.
I'm not a Marine, she screamed in her head. I'm not one of your recruits. How am I supposed to do anything when I'm trussed up like somebody's Sunday dinner?
Heavy footsteps drew near.
Avera bit back a groan as a hand grabbed her and rolled her roughly onto her back. With the blindfold on, she couldn't see, but she could feel. Pain shot down her arms, from her shoulders all the way to her cramped hands pinned beneath her. The sour smell of old sweat filled her next breath. She didn't think she'd ever forget that odor as long as she lived. Which might not be very long if she didn't use her brain and think of something.
The man who'd attacked her as she was unlocking her apartment door came closer. She could feel him kneeling over her, a knee pressed to each side of her legs. He leaned forward and laid a hand on her chest, his breathing hard and fast.
She wanted so badly to struggle, to throw him off. Instead, she waited, trying not to feel the press of fingers against her neck or their slow drag down the middle of her chest. Bile rose in her throat. His roving hand moved back up her body and he leaned forward and squeezed her breast.
Something inside her snapped. Her knees shot up, one slightly higher than the other, and rammed into his crotch. She jerked her head and shoulders to the side as he fell forward, a stream of strangled words pouring from his lips. She wiggled hard, trying to get out from under him, straining against the cords wrapped around her wrists and ankles. The cords suddenly gave. She kicked her feet free and shook her wrists loose as she rolled to the side. She ripped off the blindfold and scrambled to her feet. Needles of pain almost took her down again as blood rushed back into her limbs. She staggered and caught herself. The man rushed her, a knife in his hand. She ducked and threw her arms up shielding her face and chest from the quick jabs and slashes. The knife fell again and again. Oh God, he was going to kill her. Cut her up into little bite sized pieces if she didn't do something fast.
Don't just stand there, run! Get to the gun in your nightstand!
Her father's voice echoed in her head as the knife rose again. She dove under the man's raised arm, twisting to avoid crashing into her coffee table. Fingers tangled in her hair just as a blast of cold, wintry air brushed across her back, making her shiver. Her attacker cursed. The fingers snapped open and she jerked away. Sprinting down the short hall, she wheeled into her bedroom and slammed the door shut.
No lock, but she'd take the few precious moments the closed door offered.
She rolled across the bed, hit the wall, and scrambled on hands and knees to the nightstand. She jerked the drawer open and reached inside. The bedroom door flung open, banging against the wall. Snatching the small revolver out, she turned and fired.
His body jerked, but he didn't stop coming for her. She squeezed the trigger again. The big man grunted and staggered back. He made a futile grab for the bedpost as he fell, grunting harder when he hit the floor. The knife—that oh, so sharp knife—flew out of his hand and skidded across the hardwood floor.
For a moment, all she could hear in the sudden quiet were her own ragged breaths. Desperate pants of fear and anger coming too quick and shallow. She gulped and tried to slow her breathing to keep from hyperventilating. She couldn't pass out now.
Avera pushed up, back pressed against the wall. Her hands shook as she held the revolver, waiting for him to move, to come at her again. He just lay still, taking one shallow breath after another. Slowly, she slid along the wall to the window. She reached out a shaking hand and opened the blinds. Moonlight flowed in, bathing the patch of floor where the man lay. Her breath caught.
Something white glistened in his eyebrows, lashes, and scraggly mustache, fading slowly as she stared. She bent and pressed the barrel of the gun to his head before touching one cautious finger to the white stuff. Cold nipped her skin, melting away as quickly as the strange substance when she rubbed it between her fingers. Her gaze shot back to the man's face in disbelief.
Ice. His face was covered in ice. Or more precisely, frost. How was that possible? Where had a blast of air come from in her apartment cold enough to frost a person's face?
She remembered the brush of cold air against her back. Replaying the moment, she realized the cold, wintery air had smelled strongly of snow and fir trees. Her apartment was in the middle of a city and this was the middle of March. No snow or fir trees for miles.
She sniffed. A hint of evergreen still lingered in the air.
Her heart started pounding again. She stood, but had to quickly move to the bed to sit down. Her knees trembled. The rest of her body just felt numb. It didn't take a medical degree to know she was going into shock.
Get help now, worry about freaky frost later.
She flicked the bedside lamp on, reached for the phone, and froze.
"My God," she whispered, gazing in horror at her arm. Both arms, she realized, holding the other out in a macabre comparison.
Blood covered her from elbows to hands like a pair of long, fingerless gloves. She couldn't tell how many times she'd been cut, or where. As she stared, fat red drops fell to the floor, slowly at first, but getting faster. Dime-sized splatters on the light-colored wood quickly grew to quarter-sized puddles. The sight made her stomach heave.
As if waiting for that moment of awareness, the pain hit. Not just the sharp stings from the wounds on her arms, but the throb on the side of her face where he'd hit her and the burn on her scalp where he'd torn her hair out by the roots during their struggle. She shuddered, feeling the pressure of tears behind her eyes. He'd been so strong. If she hadn't been able to get to her gun…
Avera glanced again at the man on the floor. He still breathed, but hadn't moved. She kept the weapon pointed in his direction as she reached again for the phone. She punched in nine-one-one and waited for the emergency operator.
A year ago, she would have called her father first.
"911 operator, what is your emergency?"
"I… I just shot someone." Self-pity and hysteria hovered, just waiting for her to let her guard down. If, or rather when, it got loose, she was going to be a mess.
"Are you all right?" The operator's voice sounded more focused.
A wave of vertigo made the room spin. "Yes. No." She took a deep breath and tried very hard not to go to pieces. "My arms are cut. I'm bleeding." Later, she promised herself…she'd go to pieces later. Right now, she had to get help.
"I have your address, ma'am. I'm sending an ambulance. The police are on their way. I want you to stay on the phone with me until they get there, okay? What's your name? Is there someone I can call for you?"
"Avera St. John, and no, there's no one to call." No family, no close friends, no one who might care whether she lived or died tonight.
The bleak epiphany shook her, made her realize that after losing her father she'd literally cut herself off from the world and buried herself in her work.
Her dad would be so disappointed.
The Planet Avalyr, Realm Illian, Castle of the Tragar, The Present
"Are you ready to die?"
The unexpected question, uttered in a deep, gravelly voice, sent a shot of adrenalin surging through Devlin Tragar. His mind snapped a shield of magic around him before he could even jerk his head up to identify his attacker. A reaction the question's speaker had probably hoped for, he realized, instantly recognizing the grinning warrior pointing a naked sword in his direction. The urge to wipe that amused expression off his friend's face was tempting. Devlin settled for glaring instead.
"You're early, Karess. I'm not scheduled to do any dying for at least another hour."
Karess Si-Faderan relaxed his threatening pose and shrugged, lips stretching into a wide grin. "You know how grumpy your First Blade gets without his favorite victim. Fate is cutting through the ranks of your guard like a scythe. The ones he hasn't challenged yet paid me to come fetch you so he'll leave them alone. Mind you, if you're worried about facing him, I'm willing to risk his wrath and let you try to kill me instead." He executed a short series of training moves before freezing in another menacing pose, sword high over one shoulder. The pose might have worked if not for the laughter twinkling in his gray eyes. Karess was hardly ever serious.
Humor replaced irritation. Devlin leaned back in his chair and raised a disbelieving brow. "I didn't realize you were in such a hurry to die."
Karess brought the sword down, twirling it with a flourish. "I did say try to kill me. I doubt I'll be in much danger considering your lack of practice lately. You're probably so rusty you'll squeak when you move." He crossed the room, his sword slicing the air in restless arcs. It was apparent he'd already been sparring for several hours. His training leathers were stained dark with sweat and smudged here and there with the pale sand of the practice yard. More sweat darkened his blond hair and gleamed on his skin. A fresh bruise bloomed purple on his left forearm.
Envy flashed through Devlin. He'd spent his morning in meetings with his advisors and going over message scrolls needing his attention. As head of Clan Tragar and ruler of Realm Illian, his duties kept him busy to the point he was lucky to pick up a sword once a week. He wasn't about to give in to Karess' goading, however. "You are the one getting rusty, old friend, else you also think me out of practice at handling your insults. Which, I assure you, is not the case."
The constant flick of the sword paused. "So, is that your way of saying you'll be ignoring your faithful Blades yet again just to sit here the rest of the day reading boring message scrolls?" Karess snagged one of the scrolls out of the stack on the desk with the point of his sword and flipped it end over end into the air. With a deft stab he caught the spinning scroll again, this time flicking it at Devlin. "Or are you going to come out and play?" he challenged, his expression unrepentant.
Devlin caught the small scroll against his chest and returned it to the pile on his desk. Boring or not, the messages needed to be read. And there was the treaty with Realm Mystia he had to go over before their delegation arrived tomorrow. And—”
"Come, Devlin, be reasonable," Karess said, his voice full of impatience. "Would you really rather I sic Fate on you?"
Devlin raised his brows at the dire threat. Fate An-Derrith, First Blade and Captain of Devlin's personal guard, was far less easy going than Karess. The tall, dark-skinned Feyune male had a way of pressuring Devlin into doing things if he thought it was for his own good. "You would do such a thing to me? Your own Bloodsworn? Where is your loyalty, my Blade?"
Karess slapped a hand over his heart. "There is no question of my loyalty if you could but see it so, my Bloodsworn. As your Second Blade, I hold your safety and well-being dearer than my own." He slipped into a fresh grin. "That's why I am here first instead of old stone face. If you don't decide to come with me peacefully, it will be his turn to convince you. And since we both know you've been neglecting your sword work, Fate is likely to drag you bodily through the palace halls to the practice yard whether you want to go or not. Not very dignified behavior for a Clan leader much less a Realm's ruler. Imagine the gossip. Your image as an immovable force when it comes to negotiating would be ruined."
"And let's not forget my image as First Bloodsworn of Avalyr," Devlin added with a feigned grimace. "If I cannot control my own Blades, how can I be expected to control the outcome of the prophecies? Luma would have me replaced before the sun set."
His Second Blade sighed dramatically. "No Bloodsworn office, no Realm, and the Clan would banish you out of embarrassment. We will all be forced to take to the road to earn our living. Damn, Devlin, I'm too old to be a homeless waif."
An image of Karess squeezed into childish clothes flashed into Devlin's mind. He chuckled at the mental picture, feeling the tight muscles in his neck and shoulders relax noticeably. He'd needed this interruption.
"And this is your solution? To abduct me at sword-point from my own study?"
Karess' face lit with mischievous glee. "Yes. Great idea isn't it. You can tell anyone who asks, you were taken against your will." He waved the sword in front of Devlin's face for emphasis.
Devlin stared at the dulled practice blade and rubbed his chin. The prospect was tempting. But while he could put off his other duties, there was still the matter of the message he'd been stewing over when Karess had come in.
"My mother has returned early from the Oracle," he stated baldly. He nudged the message scroll delivered to him a short while ago. "She brought the translation for the Seventh Prophecy."
Karess' grin faded. His whole body tensed, as if he'd spied an enemy. Devlin appreciated the reaction even knowing there was nothing Karess could do to help him with this battle. Not when the enemy was words on a piece of paper.
Praise for Bloodsworn
2011 Prism Winner, Fantasy Category & Best First Book
"Anyone interested in a solid romance with a lot of action should read this book." - RomFan Reviews
"... it had everything you want in a book - action, sexy men, romance, adventure to other worlds and also a great plot..." - Rites of Romance Reviews