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Authors: S. M. Reine

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Defying Fate

BOOK: Defying Fate
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Table of Contents























The Descent Series

SM Reine

Copyright © 2013


The Descent Series

Seasons of the Moon

Cain Chronicles


For Lord and Master Deb, who will never be able to read this book.

And for David, who dies in it. (Sorry.)


The Garden


Colorado – April 1993

Landon checked his watch again.
Six fifty-eight in the evening—almost time.

He forced his aching body out of the lawn chair, pressed his hands against his lower back, and leaned his pelvis forward until his spine popped. A satisfied groan rumbled through his chest.

“Need a better chair,” he muttered.

There wasn’t much of a chance that this would be the night that James Faulkner returned, after two months’ worth of nights, so Landon was eager to escape the musty old cave and return to his wife on the surface.

In the seven weeks that had elapsed since James stepped through the door, things had been pretty quiet among the coven. The esbats had been uneventful. The witches noticed that James was missing, but their worries were easy to dismiss.

Hannah was the only problem. Hardly a day passed without her calling to demand to speak to James, no matter how many times Landon told her that he was on a business trip and unreachable. It wasn’t even a lie, really, although it
a serious understatement of the gravity of the situation. Regardless, Hannah didn’t believe him. There were reasons that she had been kicked out of the coven, and her ham-handed attempts at “magic” were only part of it.

Clouds of dust billowed through the air when Landon moved the lawn chair to its usual resting place in the back corner. He dissolved into a coughing fit.

Maybe Holly was right—maybe it was time to give the chamber the thorough washing it had probably needed for two or three generations. But Landon rejected the thought as soon as he had it. Cleaning the cave would mean spending far more time around that blasted door, and a few minutes a night was
more than enough for his tastes.

The door was an ancient marble monstrosity with black lines carved into the frame. The silver handle emanated a distinct sense of unwelcome, so Landon avoided touching it. The cave was meant to be a ritual space, with the door acting as a source of power, but he had never used it for that purpose. Frankly, he wouldn’t have even if he could.

But he hovered a hand over the silver lever for a moment tonight, tempted to open the door and see what was taking James so long.

It wasn’t a very strong temptation.

He jammed his hands back into his pockets and backed away again.

His watch beeped. Seven o’clock.

As usual, silver-gray light appeared around the edge of the door. Landon put on a pair of aviators.

Through the sunglasses, he could see all of the ethereal lettering around the door illuminate. It sparkled as though stars were trapped within the frame, though Landon suspected that what waited on the other side was far less romantic than that.

Come on
, he thought, glancing at his watch. As soon as sixty seconds passed, the light would fade, silence would fill the cavern, and he could go eat supper.

But a minute passed, and then two.

The light only grew brighter.

The door swung open, pouring gray light over Landon. A human figure stood silhouetted in the arch, and Landon took a step backwards before he remembered that he was meant to be the door’s steward, for better or for worse. He gathered what little courage he had and stood strong.

“It’s just the boy,” he muttered as the shape approached, growing larger with every step. “It’s just the boy.”

The silhouette resolved into a familiar figure. He was over six feet tall with the lean, muscular body of a dancer. Black hair shaded his eyes. There wasn’t a hint of beard growth on his jaw, even though he couldn’t have used a razor in a long time.

His shadow rippled as he entered the cave and the door slammed shut behind him. All of the light vanished.

James Faulkner had come home.

Landon’s face relaxed into a smile as he extended his arms. “Welcome back,” he said warmly. “We’ve missed you.”

James took two steps before collapsing. He spilled to the ground bonelessly, and the sound of his head connecting with the ground made Landon wince.

“Careful, there. You’ve been out of it for quite some time now.” Landon grabbed a blanket out of the corner, tossing it over the young witch’s shoulders. James’s flesh was soaked with sweat and softer than an infant’s. He steamed faintly in the cool air of the cave.

Shivers wracked his body. He curled his knees to his chest. “What…who…?” His teeth were chattering too hard for him to speak. James gripped his chest, and Landon pushed his hand gently aside to see a healing wound over one breast in the shape of a star. It looked like a brand—nothing that a couple of well-crafted poultices couldn’t help.

Landon rubbed his shoulders through the blanket. “Give yourself a few minutes. Deep breaths. You’re all right.”

James tried to get to his knees and fell again, this time face-first on the ground. Landon adjusted the blanket to keep him covered. He hesitated when he saw the boy’s back.

Deep red gashes marked the skin between his shoulder blades, like fresh orifices were forming there, glossy and red and struggling to heal. Bone peeked through the slices, but the wounds weren’t bleeding. It would take much more than poultices to fix

“You’re all right,” Landon repeated, pulling the blanket to cover the swollen gashes.

“Where—where am I?”

“This is the basement under my house. You departed from here. Remember?”

His brow creased. “No, I don’t…” He shivered again, and he bowed his head to his knees to ride it out. Landon didn’t know what to do but keep rubbing James’s shoulders and wait until he was calm enough to go upstairs.

But James didn’t calm down. The shivers kept building until they were almost a seizure. His face was screwed up with pain.

Landon stepped to the mouth of the stairs, leaning through the door. “Holly! Get down here, and bring my satchel!”

“Landon,” James said.

He kneeled beside him again. “Yes, son?”

James reached up to grab Landon’s shirt, dragging his face down. “What the
has happened to me?” James’s voice shook with the effort it took to speak. The words were as ragged as his changed back, as though he had never spoken before in his life.

But it wasn’t the gashes or the tremulous voice that gave Landon pause.

James Faulkner’s eyes were a very bright shade of blue.

“Ah,” Landon said. “So it’s done.”


The Haven


California - May 2010

Conan O’Brien cracked a bad
joke on TV. The audience’s responding laughter was shrill, harpy-like, almost screaming. Hannah wanted to throw the remote through the screen. But late night programming was the only thing had kept her son quiet lately, and she couldn’t afford to replace the television, so she only dug her fingernails into her palms, gritted her teeth, and tolerated it.

Spring in Half Moon Bay smelled like saltwater and seaweed. The steely ocean rippled outside her window, unsettled by a coming storm, and the wind was just on the wrong side of cold. Hannah didn’t close the guesthouse’s window. She hadn’t been in Hell for months, but she still hungered for cool, moist air.

Another joke, more shrill laughter. Her nails dug into her hand.

“What do you want for dinner?” she asked.

Nathaniel didn’t respond.

She stepped into the kitchen. In the refrigerator, she had an open box of baking soda, half a liter of milk, a few slices of bread. The coven would have plenty of food if she wanted it—they were only a phone call away. But admitting that they had burned through Hannah’s paltry savings was more than she could handle.

Hannah braced her hands on the granite counter and let her head hang between her shoulders. She could see a sliver of the television screen through the doorway. Conan O’Brien was dancing. The audience roared, but Nathaniel’s expression never changed. He had spent all night, every night, sitting in that same position. The couch had all but molded around his body now.

Zoning out was still better than what he had been doing with his days.

The phone rang, startling Hannah.

“Phone, Mom,” Nathaniel said without looking up.

A corded handset was mounted next to the refrigerator. She pulled it into to the dining room. The table was covered in books, papers, stones, crystals, pens, candles—everything a growing witch needed to cast magic.

She pressed the phone to her ear. “Hello?”

“It’s me, Hannah,” replied a man, whose voice she recognized.

She let out a breath that she hadn’t realized she was holding. Hannah hadn’t heard from James Faulkner, her former fiancé and father of her son, since she had left him in the City of Dis last December. After so long without word, she had started to think he must have been dead.

There was a time when Hannah had fantasized about James getting killed—the times when she had been trapped at home with Nathaniel when he was a raging toddler, and James was off saving the world. But Nathaniel wasn’t a child anymore. He was an almost-teenaged witch who was drawing runes in his own blood. The idea of losing James—maybe the only witch powerful enough to control Nathaniel—had been haunting her for weeks.

“Where are you?” she asked in a low voice, gripping the receiver in both hands until the plastic creaked. “I thought you were going to contact us as soon as you got back.”

“You need to meet me at Pamela’s old house in one week. We’re going to go to the Haven.”

Hannah glanced at the wall calendar. Below the picture of an ocean sunrise, Nathaniel had been crossing off days. One week would be the end of the month.

Swallowing down the last vestiges of her shriveled pride, Hannah asked, “Could you meet us here instead?”

“I won’t be available for another week.”


“Because,” James said, “I’m about to be arrested by the Union.”

The phone slipped an inch before Hannah realized that her fingers had gone slack. She caught it, put it back up to her ear, and leaned around the doorway. Nathaniel was still transfixed. She whispered anyway. “Arrested? For what?”

“That’s not important. They won’t keep me for long. My parents have agreed to hide you, and they won’t tell Landon you’ve returned. Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m not worried about it for me. I’m worrying for Nathaniel.”

He sighed. “Yes. I am, too.”

The silence between them carried a lifetime of secrets. Hannah had a thousand questions, but nothing to say—not over the phone. She didn’t even know where to begin. Thoughts of archangels, conspiracies, and deicide vanished as quickly as they occurred to her. She shut her eyes. Pressed her forehead against the wall.

“Here’s the thing, James: I don’t have any money left. I can’t afford to go to Colorado.” It was physically painful to confess that aloud. “And don’t tell me to ask the coven here for help.”

“I wasn’t planning on it. It’s not necessary anyway—I’ve added you to my bank account. You’ll be able to withdraw whatever you need from the local branch. But move quickly; my transactions are likely to be monitored, and they’ll be looking for you.”

“Who?” she asked.

James gave a low, mirthless chuckle. “Everyone.”

“This week is going to be bad. Isn’t it?”

“Very bad. But after that, you’ll be safe. You and Nathaniel. You’ll never have to worry again—not about money, your safety, or any covens. I promise you that.”

“You’ve made promises before,” Hannah said. The laughter from the living room abruptly stopped as Nathaniel turned off the TV. She was out of time for questions. “I’ll see you in Colorado.”

She hung up the phone.


Fallon, NV

It was doomed to be
a routine patrol from the start. After a few shootouts with stubborn old people, the last of the stragglers had finally allowed themselves to be ousted from Fallon’s ruins weeks earlier. There weren’t any demons left, either. The Union only sent patrols through town for appearances—just a friendly reminder that they were still in control of the region.

BOOK: Defying Fate
13.54Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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