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Authors: larissa ladd

elemental 05 - inferno

BOOK: elemental 05 - inferno
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Table of Contents

Contents

 

Title Page

Copyright

- Description

- Chapter 1

- Chapter 2

- Chapter 3

- Chapter 4

- Chapter 5

- Chapter 6

- Chapter 7

- Chapter 8

- Chapter 9

- Chapter 10

- Other Books by Larissa

- About the Author

 

 

 

 

INFERNO
An Elemental Series - Book Five

 

 

 

Larissa Ladd

Copyright © 2014 by Larissa Ladd

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, without prior written permission.

Larissa Ladd

www.LarissaLadd.com 

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

Inferno/ Larissa Ladd. -- 1st ed.

 

 

D
ESCRIPTION

 

AS AIRA HOVERS BETWEEN LIFE and death, victim to Alex’s poison, Aiden realizes what he feels for her is more than desire. Infuriating she may be, but she was also charming and generous, insinuating herself into his heart just as easily as she inhabits the wind. But he knows that Aira isn’t for him and he must complete the job her grandmother has given him and Dylan. He must protect Aira and help her become the ruler of the Air Elemental so she can choose a husband and finally be safe. Despite his determination to do his job then get out of her life, Aiden can’t keep his hands off Aira and the passion that erupts between them like white hot lava makes him crazy thinking of her with another man. But, it’s Dylan’s keen eye for detail that holds the key to saving Aira and Aiden while snaking out the evil power behind Alex--the nameless, faceless entity willing to destroy anyone in their path to kill Aira. In a race against time, Dylan and Aiden must do the impossible—protect Aira from a ruthless killer…and himself! 

 

 

C
HAPTER
1

 

THE WOMAN STRETCHED OUT ON the sofa, shivering and pale, was far removed from the vibrant elemental Aiden had come to know, the woman he harbored feelings for, held back from, who tempted and infuriated him. 

Aira tossed and turned in an uneasy state between sleep and wakefulness, her brow knit as she suffered restless dreams he couldn’t follow. Aiden didn’t want to admit to his brother how deeply concerned he was regarding Aira’s condition. It had been almost a week since Aira had been poisoned, and merely a few days since being given the task of killing Alex herself by the elders, and she was no better. 

A few feet away, Dylan was reading from a large tome he had brought with him from Aira’s grandmother’s house. It was written in the language and script that water elementals were taught from a young age. Aiden chewed on his lip, glancing only briefly at his younger brother. He wished, not for the first time, that Aira’s grandmother could have somehow managed to hold on, then resentment sunk in and Aiden thought if Lorene had lived Aira probably wouldn’t be in her current state of weakness and misery. There would have been no need for Alex to poison her if she hadn’t been in contention to become the ruler of her element. She wouldn’t have been in contention if Lorene were still alive and ruling over the element of water. Aiden wondered just what had possessed Alex to do what he had done. The poison he had given Aira was dire indeed, composed of earth-aligned essences, but it hadn’t killed her outright. Killing Aira would have sealed his fate just as certainly as Aira deciding against him.

“How’s it looking?” Aiden asked Dylan, barely looking over at his brother. He felt somehow like he had to keep his gaze on Aira, even if she was totally unaware of his existence. Some part of him thought that as long as he was watching her breathe, watching her struggle against the influence of the poison, she couldn’t possibly slip away.

“It’s… it’s complicated,” Dylan said, worry lacing his voice. “I don’t know why the poison didn’t kill her outright—or within a day or two. According to this book, it should have either killed her or have already been out of her system by now. There must be something we’re not aware of… some kind of magic or something going on with Aira that’s making it linger in her system like this.” 

Aiden sighed, rubbing at his face in concern. Just then the wind rattled the windows and then abruptly died off; gusts and eddies of wind had been the surest sign of Aira’s continued vitality, even more than her appearance. Each time the wind died down Aiden suffered a moment of fear—he had become more attuned than ever to the sound of weather, listening for the rising howl of the wind, the occasional spate of rain, trying to divine what it meant for the woman he could now admit to himself he cared deeply about, much more than any of his previous charges. 

It wasn’t just the sex, Aiden knew that. Even if he had never given in
to her imperious desire, even if he had brushed her off, he would still be concerned for her. There was something about Aira’s challenging, infuriating, charming nature that had gotten under his skin. Aiden reached out blindly for the cup of coffee that was never far from hand and took a long sip. It was cold, strong and sugary and he had existed on the brew with very little else in his stomach since they’d returned from the elders.

“What can we do for her?” Aiden asked Dylan. 

A sound somewhere between a cry and a gasp from Aira commanded his closer attention. She tossed her head, scattering her dark hair across the pillow as she twisted, her face contorted with pain. He had asked the question before; Dylan’s research had been unavailing. His younger brother had consulted book after book of water healing lore, trying to find out what help might be possible. There was no way around the fact that Aira would have to kill Alex in a few days’ time, but if she was incapable of it, too weak or incapacitated, she would be taken out of contention for the position of ruler of her element. At that point Aiden knew he and Dylan wouldn’t be in a position to do much to help her—the elemental elders would probably determine that she was simply too unstable, like Alex, and have her killed right alongside the elemental she had judged.

“There’s a counter-potion I can try. It may not fix everything, but it should help at least bring her back around to consciousness,” Dylan said hesitantly. “There are one or two ingredients Aira doesn’t have here. I’ll have to leave to get them.” 

Aiden nodded, fatigue taking hold deep in his bones. Someone had to stay with Aira at all times—not only was her condition critical due to the poison still affecting her, but she was also still a target. Now  that she had sentenced Alex to death, she was a target from his family in a more definitive way in addition to being a target of her rivals in contention and whoever else had a vested interest in her not ascending to the position of Regina Sylphaea. Aiden, by default, was the one who stayed by Aira, out of a sense of responsibility for what had happened to her—a sense of guilt he couldn’t quite shake in spite of himself.

He knew Aira’s choices were her own, but he couldn’t help remembering the fight they’d had before she went to Alex, opening herself up to being poisoned. Aira’s strident voice echoed in his mind and he cringed in a tired way.
“You’re my bodyguard—not my keeper, and certainly not my husband.”
The fight he’d been so hell bent on having with Aira had pushed her to sleep with Alex. The fact that she’d done it festered in Aiden’s mind—in spite of his normally casual attitude towards romance and sex—and he found he was jealous, almost enraged by Alex having that chance with Aira and that had been the opening Alex had sought.

Dylan stood and quietly gathered his things to run his errand, while Aiden stared down at Aira, silently willing her to recover. Even if it was just enough to open her eyes and look up at him, to argue with him, anything. He closed his eyes for just a moment, taking a deep breath before opening them once more. Ignoring the irritation that scratched his eyelids with every blink like they were coated on the inside with sand or salt. His lack of sleep was taking a toll, along with the fact that he was drinking coffee steadily instead of eating and drinking normally and not resting like a sensible person should. But he couldn’t let himself sleep or even eat regularly while Aira’s life hung in the balance.

He knew that their most recent fight and its aftermath—among other things—were the final nails in the coffin of any possible romance with Aira. She had made it clear even before she had run to Alex that he was nothing more to her than a friend and possibly not even that. Aiden tried to remind himself that Aira had been speaking in anger. It was, in Aiden’s mind, the last proof that he and Aira weren’t meant for each other. She had pushed him away before, they had fought before, but their fighting had never had such dire repercussions as the ones Aira was currently living through.

Dylan left and Aiden felt his fatigue weighing heavily on him. The wind rose in an abrupt howl, shaking the windows in their frames, the eaves of the townhouse giving the rising gust of wind a keening, ghostly moan. Aiden shivered. It was the longest sustained gust he had noticed since Aira had gone under after the verdict she had rendered against Alex. In her current state, Aira had no actual control over her element—she was reacting to it and it to her in a way that was beyond all consciousness, all intent. Aiden’s eyes fell heavy and he reeled slightly, gripping the coffee table he sat on trying to keep himself upright. It wouldn’t do. He needed to sleep. He couldn’t trust that Aira would be safe without his vigilance, but he couldn’t stay awake any longer.

In his sleepy delirium, Aiden saw the answer to his needs. There was one thing he could do. Aira’s couch was huge—she had lost weight as she’d fought off the poison. She was tiny. Her breasts and hips were the only parts of her body with any extra flesh on them, the only full, lush areas on her otherwise gaunt frame. There was plenty of room for him next to her, but could he really trust himself to lie next to her, was he too tired to react to a potential threat? Was he only considering it because, in spite of his resolution that things could never be between him and Aira, he was drawn to her—even as weakened as she was? It didn’t matter, Aiden thought tiredly, he knew he was going to fall asleep no matter what he did; if he were right next to Aira, at least he would be guarding her body. Someone would have to kill him to get to her.

Aiden stumbled to his feet and reeled slightly as he closed the short distance between the coffee table and the couch. He shifted Aira onto her side and crawled onto the couch next to her, trying not to crowd her, but his body came into contact with hers and Aiden felt his skin heating up at the proximity. There was a brief moment of concern, of recognition that he might not be thinking clearly, but he ignored it as he breathed in the scent of Aira’s hair underneath the faint smell of sweat. It was a deeper, vibrant fragrance like lavender and lemon, a fragrance that had filled his senses when they had been together. His body temperature began to rise and he wrapped his arms loosely around Aira’s shivering frame, holding her close in spite of knowing he shouldn’t. He needed to distance himself from her, not indulge his desire for closeness, but he was so tired, so utterly worn out. Aiden buried his face against the nape of Aira’s neck and fell into a deep sleep, his breathing evening out as his fatigue overtook him.

 

*

The sound of the door opening brought Aiden from the depths of his sleep; he didn’t open his eyes, but he listened carefully. Aira was no longer shivering against him. 

“I’m home.” 

Aiden heard his brother’s familiar voice. The sleep had made Aiden’s mind more alert and he realized that just because he recognized his brother’s voice didn’t mean it was a safe situation. Aiden opened his eyes and turned slightly on the couch; Dylan was walking in with bags, looking slightly concerned. 

“Are you okay, bro?” Dylan asked, setting down his items before coming to the coffee table to sit down. Aiden nodded and watched, still feeling slightly sleepy as Dylan’s attention went to Aira.

BOOK: elemental 05 - inferno
11.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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