Authors: K.F. Breene
By K.F. Breene
Copyright © 2014 by K.F.
Other Titles by K.F.
Building Trouble, Book 1
Uneven Foundation, Book 2
Solid Ground, Book 3
Back in the Saddle, Book 1 – FREE
Hanging On, Book 2
A Wild Ride, Book 3
Lost and Found, Book 1 - FREE
Overcoming Fear, Book 2
Butterflies in Honey, Book 3
Love and Chaos: Cassie’s Story
Into the Darkness, 1 - FREE
Braving the Elements, 2
On a Razor’s Edge, 3
The Council, 5
Chosen, Book 1
Table of Contents
I haven’t written an acknowledgement before now because I didn’t know how people felt about me putting their name in a book. Turns out, they don’t mind the idea. I’m not very bright.
Firstly, thank you madly to my sarcastic sister from another mother, Keri Frey. She found me through Jessica Brodie, helped me with Growing Pains, and was integral to the Darkness series. Everything I do goes through her.
Thanks to Heather Spencer, my biggest cheerleader and suicide hotline. I often look at the Wonder Woman bracelet she gave me to keep me from throwing my hands up and walking away. Casey Harris has been my eyes and ears in the book world, helping me with marketing and reviews as a matter of her day. It is always above and beyond, and she has helped make my books a success. Jessica Lynn Leonard, who has always been there for absolutely anything I might need. Fiona Wilson, Heather Spencer and Heather Fries Keubler—thanks for catching the small errors so the readers can have a smooth ride (I’m sure they thank you, too).
And, hugely, thank you to all the fans for helping make this series a bestseller. Thanks for your reviews (even the bad ones) and your support, for your confidence and
your high-level of expectation, and for challenging me to constantly get better, and keep working. You guys make this all worthwhile!
Right then, let’s get this show on the road!
I inched into the dimly lit room wearing a black pant suit that denoted my status as the least knowledgeable mage in history. Dominicous and Toa waited for me patiently, Dominicous with his ankle crossed over his knee, and Toa displaying great posture.
This was one of the rooms that
needed extensive repairs after the first battle I’d ever experienced. Once the dust had settled, most of the front of the house, and a great portion of the back, lay in tatters from enemy magic blasting. The interior had been rebuilt, as well as updated, and now the room dripped refinement and elegance for which Stefan’s clan—and my clan, too—was known.
didn’t make this meeting any more comfortable.
Please,” Dominicous pointed to the chair in front of him, “have a seat.”
I entered the rest of the way into the room, closing the door behind me. Toa had that flat, blue-eyed stare going. It was amazing that I still hadn’t gotten used to it. Although, in my defense, a
nonblinking eye rape was rarely the kind of thing you just eased into.
After I was seated
, I looked expectantly from one man to the other, waiting to find out why I was summoned.
minicous started. “There are a few things I’d like to discuss. The first, and most unusual, concerns our history. I’m sure Stefan has told you the nature of my personal interest in you?”
I gulped, sweat starting under my arms
. He was talking about when I was five years old and got in a really bad car accident. My entire family had been killed, along with people in four other cars. I had been the sole survivor. Not only that, but I ended up a mile away, sitting in a park on my own, with little more than second-degree burns and a bad gash to the head.
Apparently Dominicous was the reason I ended up there, having plucked me out of the aftermath of the wreckage and moved me a safe distance away. He’d also given me blood.
From his vein. Kind of gross.
, no doubt, also told you,” Dominicous went on, “that it appears I will not be able to have children. I have tried for…” His face fell, briefly, before he composed himself again. “Decades. Which puts us in a unique situation. You have no parents or family to speak of. I have no heir. We both find ourselves in the same world with similar experiences, regardless of which race we were originally born into. The outcome is obvious; I would like to formally adopt you.”
My breath exited my body in a ragged
. While I’d had a foster family since I was seven, they’d never adopted me. They’d taken the state funds for orphans and allowed me to reside within their house until I was old enough to move on. And while I was extremely lucky to have ended up with loving foster parents and their normal, bratty children, I’d always been different. Not outcast, but separate. Soul-wrenchingly alone. That fact had left me unable to thoroughly trust anyone, and nowhere to put down roots.
So to sit in thi
s chair, in a job I didn’t know how to do properly, in a world I hardly fit into, and to have someone ask to adopt me even though I was a pain in the ass… I couldn’t stop the tears from raiding my eyes.
“But, am I to
o old to adopt? I’m twenty-two.” I gave him a watery grimace. I probably didn’t have to mention that I acted nowhere near my age.
“Being that I d
on’t exist in the human records, that isn’t a concern of mine. You will be adopted in our way, which is to say, welcomed into my family hearth and signed onto my documents as an heir. I’m sure you realize that with multiple partners, we don’t always know the fathers of children. It is why we set up a hearth with our mate, welcoming any children she has or begets.”
“But—and I’m just trying to understand, here—but can’t you just snag a woman that already has a kid? Rather than open yourself to jokes
and snide remarks because I’m human… ”
“I can, yes.
I had a mate long ago, but she died. I was working toward that path again when you resurfaced in my life. It seems you are deeply entwined with Fate. And me with you. There is a reason you survived that horrible accident. And a reason I was nearby to pluck you out. While I do not know that reason, I don’t turn my back on the divine, and being that you are more my child than any I would claim through mating, this solves my problem nicely. And yours.
You would gain a family and a dowry. From me, you would bring status and political influence to your chosen mate. From you…I would finally have the stability only a family can provide. Your magic would disband any naysayers, and Stefan’s mark would further silence them. There will always be prejudice, of course—that can’t be helped, as you know—but it would be lessened with both your magic and my influence. I think this would work out in the best ways for both of us.”
All I could do was blink at him for a few minutes.
While it sounded more like a business proposition than anything, his eyes had gone soft and a comforting smile I’d never seen before played around his lips. He wanted me in his family. Me: idiot human with a ton of power and absolutely no sense.
Through the warm gush in my middle, I f
ound my voice enough to say, “Wow. That’s pretty thought-out.”
’ smile grew. “In my position, something of this magnitude cannot be entered into lightly. Plus, I’m fond of you. It was emotion that led me to take you from the wreckage in the first place. This is the right decision. I feel it.”
Another few tears slipped down my cheeks.
I nodded, not really knowing what to say.
’ eyes twinkled. “Good. That’s settled then. Plus, you’re human. I’ll get grandchildren.”
“Which will turn your hair white
from stress, I’m sure,” Toa added in a dry voice.
I rolled my eyes
at Toa; he was just pissed he couldn’t unravel half the weird magical spells I accidently created.
“Wonderful. Let’s continue,” Dominicous said, more chipper than I’d ever seen him. “We plan to take a trip back to the council. We have Trek, the white mage from the Eastern Territory, who needs to be brought in. We plan to use him as proof an uprising is occurring. The lead council member has taken a mental hiatus—we need to pull him back into leadership. As a new mage of high magical status, you are also required to give your due. We will need to bring you into the fold. How is your leg?”
I looked down at my scrawny shin, newly out of the cast. “It’s okay.
A bit weak.”
“Yes, that is to be expected. And how is your relationship with the
Strong as ever, I hope?”
were Shape Changers. I’d fought beside them in the last battle in which we captured Trek, the caped idiot. I’d been given Pack Friend status on a kinship level, which meant I was someone they would fight beside if it ever came up. It was kind of a big deal.
“It’s good, except…well,
Stefan isn’t thrilled when I go to see them,” I admitted.
That was an understatement!
Stefan nearly foamed at the mouth every time I so much as mentioned Tim, the alpha. God forbid I try to go visit without both Charles and Jonas at my back. His behavior was ridiculously overprotective, for no discernible reason. Whenever I tried to talk about it, his mouth got as thin as his patience.
Which meant he knew something!
I jumped on it immediately. “What am I missing? What’s
Stefan’s problem with them?”
lanced at Dominicous, whose gaze bored into mine. “He has history with the
It is not for me to discuss.”
I felt my eyebrows dip.
Stefan generally told me everything, both about his feelings—which he usually hated admitting—or anything relevant to the clan. As mage, and hopefully co-leader one day, I needed all relevant information to make informed decisions.
o Jonas constantly told me. I barely had hold of my magic, and now I was supposed to learn how to lead. Needless to say, the pressure was mounting, one mountain at a time.
“Interesting,” I muttered, biting my lip.
“You see? S
he has an unhealthy amount of curiosity and nosiness,” Toa reflected.
“I don’t point out your flaws of stubbornness and sulkiness, do I?” I shot back.
Toa sniffed. “Yes, you do…”
Dominicous laughed. “Okay, Sasha, go create havoc.
We’ll meet again in a week or so to discuss our visit to the council. We have some time, yet. A few representatives from the
will be accompanying us, so hopefully you can smooth the working relationship between Stefan and their alpha in the meantime.”
They each wanted to bash the other’s head in. Tim tried for patience, and usually then tried not to pick up something heavy and swing it in Stefan’s direction. Stefan tried not to growl and bluster and bodily pick Tim up and throw the bear shifter out of the mansion. Pretty much the best they could each do was stare, flex, and wish I didn’t have any interaction with the other.
It wasn’t a recipe for a lovely afternoon picnic.
I was nearly skipping out the door when I met the frosty stare of one of my bodyguards.
“What are you so happy about, human?” Jonas asked, pushing forward from the wall.
Jonas didn’t like me personally, and he didn’t like that I was human, but because his brain had made the connection that I was not only necessary to the well-being of his clan, but also important, he’d assigned himself the role of my protector. He would, and had, laid down his life to keep me alive.
I think he hated himself more than me.
And yes, normal people would reciprocate that hate—the guy had left me for dead the first time we’d come in contact with each other. Plus, he was a vicious, grumpy a-hole. But for all that, he did save me from capture, and Stefan had implicit trust in him. Plus, I was terrible at holding a grudge, and the guy was hilarious if you took him with a grain of salt.
To that end, I flashed him a huge smile and said,
“Dominicous is adopting me!”
Jonas snorted. “Only a fool would tie himself to you.”
“You just called yourself a fool.”
“You called Stefan a fool, too.”
eyebrows dipped low over his eyes, his customary irritated look. “We have a possible territory breach at the West Third. Also, your furry friends are here. They say two of theirs went missing around that area, so they want to come along. The Boss says no, but it’s your expedition because he’s tied up, so it’s your call.”
“Obviously I’m going to say they can come.”
Jonas yanked the door open leading into the front greeting room and impatiently gestured me through. He was a gentleman at heart—another trait he hated about himself.
They’re not riding with me. I don’t want to have to flea bomb my car,” he said when we were within hearing range.
“Would it kill you to be nice?”
fell silent as I came in sight and turned to me expectantly. Being in his late twenties, Tim was the youngest alpha for his pack in nearly fifty years. The fact that he led a giant, North American faction made him an anomaly. He’d gotten the title the same way Stefan had gotten his leadership role, by fighting for it. He was tough and robust, only about six feet tall, but powerfully sculpted ,with thick cords of muscle running the length of his body. When he looked at a person, they wanted to take a step back from the power blasted at them. Under it all, though, he was a sweet-tempered guy.
Until he turned into a
Kodiak bear, obviously.
“Hi Sasha, good to see you.”
Tim opened his arms for a hug.
His people were huggers and
handshakers, which I loved. I hadn’t gotten a lot of that growing up, so I took advantage of it. I gave him a big squeeze, having really gotten comfortable with him these last couple months. He always made time for me, pleased that I wanted to get to know his people and personally thank his fighters for keeping me alive when we battled Trek, the white mage, in the woods.
He also understood that sometimes I needed to get away from
Stefan’s people, who thought humans were mostly worthless. Granted, when you could manipulate and control most of the species, and were simultaneously kept down by them—having to skulk off to the shadows—yeah, I got it. But still, hanging out with other humans, regardless of if they turned into soft creatures with wet noses, kept a girl sane.
He turned to his left and motioned for two others to get up. “
This is Jack, the tiger you rode like a horse.”
I felt my face flush. “More like a gurney,” I mumbled.