Read Falling Light (A Game of Shadows Novel) Online
Authors: Thea Harrison
PRAISE FOR THE GAME OF SHADOWS NOVELS
“A very detailed and intriguing start to a new series.”
Fiction Vixen Book Reviews
“Rising superstar Harrison ventures into darker territory with her chilling first book in the Game of Shadows series. Harrison’s mythology and world-building skills are on clear display . . . No matter what the genre, Harrison should be an auto-buy!”
RT Book Reviews
“I love good world building and Harrison is a master at it.”
The Book Vixen
“Dark, fun and devious.”
Bitten By Books
PRAISE FOR THE NOVELS OF THE ELDER RACES
“The series remains one of the best in paranormal romance.”
“I have a lot of love for this series. In a genre that is ridiculously overpopulated, this series is a standout for me.”
Fiction Vixen Book Reviews
“Grace’s human limitations are pushed to the edge as she learns to wield her new powers. Series fans and new readers alike will cheer her on.”
“Harrison’s flair for developing rich and well-rounded characters anchors the thrilling action and intense emotions found within her books. Harrison provides proof positive she is fast becoming a major star of paranormal romance!”
RT Book Reviews
“A delightful romantic urban fantasy.”
“A perfect blend of romance, action and drama.”
RT Book Reviews
“I am hooked on the amazing world of the Elder Races.”
Romance Novel News
“Thea Harrison’s Elder Races novels are my current addiction.”
All Things Urban Fantasy
“The author deftly weaves a fantastical romance that spans generations . . . A delightful read with intriguing potential for many more highly anticipated tales.”
Night Owl Reviews
“Vividly sensual love scenes and fast-moving action sequences are the main reasons I love this paranormal series . . . Ms. Harrison takes us once again into an intriguing tale of love and suspense.”
“[Harrison’s] world building has simply grown, become richer, more dynamic, more unique and altogether fantastic.”—
Romance Books Forum
“[Thea’s] world-building skills are phenomenal . . . A very sexy tale with a hint of action and adventure and highly memorable characters.”
Romance Novel News
“Black Dagger Brotherhood readers will love [this]!
has it all: a smart heroine, a sexy alpha hero and a dark, compelling world. I’m hooked!”
—J. R. Ward, #1
New York Times
“I absolutely loved
! Once I started reading, I was mesmerized to the very last page. Thea Harrison is a master storyteller, and she transported me to a fascinating world I want to visit again and again. It’s a fabulous, exciting read that paranormal romance readers will love.”
—Christine Feehan, #1
New York Times
“I loved this book so much, I didn’t want it to end. Smoldering sensuality, fascinating characters and an intriguing world—
kept me glued to the pages. Thea Harrison has a new fan in me!”
New York Times
“Thea Harrison has created a truly original urban fantasy romance . . . When the shapeshifting dragon locks horns with his very special heroine, sparks fly that any reader will enjoy. Buy yourself an extra-large cappuccino, sit back and enjoy the decadent fun!”
New York Times
“Thea Harrison is definitely an author to watch. Sexy and action packed,
features a strong, likable heroine, a white-hot luscious hero and an original and intriguing world that swallowed me whole. This novel held me transfixed from beginning to end! I’ll definitely be keeping my eyes open for the next book in this series.”
New York Times
“Full of tense action, toe-curling love scenes and intriguing characters that will stay with you long after the story is over. All that is wrapped inside a colorful, compelling world with magic so real, the reader can feel it. Thea Harrison is a fantastic new talent who will soon be taking the world of paranormal romance by storm.”
—Shannon K. Butcher, national bestselling author
“Fun, feral and fiercely exciting—I can’t get enough! Thea Harrison supplies deliciously addictive paranormal romance, and I’m already jonesing for the next hit.”
—Ann Aguirre, national bestselling author
“An outstanding blend of romantic suspense and urban fantasy.”—
“Utilizing vivid characterization, edge-of-your-seat danger and an intriguing alternate reality, Harrison crafts a novel that grabs you from the first sentence and makes you bitterly regret that the book must end.”
RT Book Reviews
“The writing is just superb . . . This world is really fantastic—exciting, very sexy and humorous. Fans of paranormal romance must read this book.”—
Berkley Sensation Titles by Thea Harrison
Novels of the Elder Races
Game of Shadows Novels
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) LLC
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014
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A Berkley Sensation Book / published by arrangement with the author
Copyright © 2014 by Teddy Harrison.
Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.
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eBook ISBN 978-0-698-13736-3
Berkley Sensation mass-market edition / February 2014
Cover art by Judy York.
Cover design by George Long.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Praise for the Novels of Thea Harrison
Berkley Sensation Titles by Thea Harrison
WHEN MICHAEL KILLED
the two unconscious men that lay sprawled in the overgrown grass, he did so with quick, efficient slashes across their carotid arteries.
Their spirits were already gone, destroyed by the most dangerous entity on earth. They had become drones that only looked like men, soulless vessels that enacted the Deceiver’s wishes.
Understanding what had happened to the men hadn’t stopped Mary’s expression from filling with pain when she had examined them. She had still held out hope that there was something she could do for them. Michael had watched her gaze turn dull when she realized the men were beyond her help. She cared about everyone. That fact lay at the essence of her healing.
Michael didn’t care for total strangers the way Mary did. All he felt was tiredness and a grim sense of relief as he straightened to watch the bodies bleed out. When he was certain that they were, in fact, finally dead, he limped over to the area where Mary had said that she had dropped her gun. He found the nine-millimeter, then turned to take one last look around at the area surrounding the small, rustic cabin.
More bodies littered the clearing. More casualties of the millennia-old war that he and the others had fought.
In this latest confrontation, the Deceiver had come much too close to capturing both Michael and Mary. He had shot Mary, and he and his drones had wounded Michael several times. Only by the sheerest luck and an insane gamble had they managed to survive and send their old enemy scrambling in retreat.
The strong morning light fell into Michael’s eyes, blinding him. The bright yellow haze filled his mind, and his head swam. For a moment, he felt disconnected from his body, half in another realm, sensing as if from a distance how his physical wounds throbbed.
The knife wound in his upper thigh was the worst. It ached like a son of a bitch. The knife had scraped bone. He was lucky it hadn’t severed an artery. When Mary had bandaged them in the cabin, she had stitched and bound the knife wound tightly. It stanched the worst of the bleeding, but he could feel that the bandages had already grown heavy and wet.
He had other wounds that were not physical but spiritual in nature, claw marks from the swarm of dark spirits that had attacked him, and from when the Deceiver had almost destroyed him.
He didn’t remember what had happened, only what Mary told him. He had been unconscious at the time, but he could sense the damage running through him like a series of dark fault lines. He felt as if he took the right kind of blow, a blow filled with power and not mere physical strength, his spirit might shatter.
He needed to get off his feet and give the leg wound a chance to stop bleeding. They needed to leave this place before the Deceiver could regroup and try to come after them again. Michael suspected that the Deceiver would pull back, gather reinforcements and regain his strength rather than go after them again right away, but they couldn’t take any chances. At the moment, they were too vulnerable to fight off another concentrated attack.
This cabin was isolated, a few miles away from Wolf Lake, deep in the Michigan National Forest. Once, it had been a useful hideaway, but now that its location was known, its usefulness as a safe house was gone. When they left, they wouldn’t be returning.
He turned to limp toward Mary who leaned against the passenger door of his car, a nondescript, battered blue Ford with a transplanted BMW engine that he maintained meticulously.
While she waited for him to finish his grim task, she tilted her face up, eyes closed, to the bright morning sunlight.
The sight of her struck him powerfully, almost like another physical blow. She was small and slender-boned, just five-foot-two, with bright, aquamarine blue eyes, honey-colored skin and thick, layered tawny hair that curled crazily if left to its own devices.
She was gorgeous and almost a stranger. He had only known her for a few days in this life. They had been lovers for a single night, but they had been soul mates for millennia.
As he approached, she opened her eyes to look at him. She looked as exhausted as he felt, her lovely eyes circled with shadows and her soft, full mouth bracketed with lines of pain. Her jeans were streaked with dirt, and she wore one of his flannel shirts. It was massive on her, and the tails came down almost to her knees.
The Deceiver had shot her in the shoulder. Michael had bound her arm in a sling. Then he helped her to roll up one sleeve past her slender wrist, while the other sleeve remained empty.
When he reached her side, he tucked the weapons in his black canvas bag in the backseat. Then he couldn’t resist touching her. He leaned over to kiss her. She cupped the back of his head, stroking his short hair as she kissed him back.
He took her free hand. “Listen to me. We’re both hurt, and Astra’s strength is depleted.”
Astra, his old childhood mentor.
Astra was also the leader of the original group of seven that had left their world six thousand years ago to pursue the Deceiver when he had escaped their prison and fled to Earth.
In order to follow him, the group had needed to die as the Deceiver had died, in an arcane ritual filled with alchemy and power. The ritual transmuted their souls. As they died, they left their world and joined the Earth’s natural cycle of death and rebirth, where they lived and died as humans did, over and over again.
Astra had come to help Michael and Mary in astral form when they fought their latest battle with the Deceiver, but astral projection took a lot of power. Fighting in astral form took even more power, and they couldn’t expect any more help from her anytime soon.
Mary’s hand squeezed his, her expression sharpening with concern. He realized he had fallen into a fugue.
He told her, “Thanks to the damage you did to him, the Deceiver has to take time to recover too, but we don’t know how much reinforcement he has nearby, so we can’t stop in one place again. I can drive for a while, but you need to concentrate on healing yourself. Nothing else matters. Heal yourself so you can take over driving, because soon I’m going to need your help. Do you understand?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
He lifted her hand to kiss her fingers, and she curled her fingers along the lean edge of his cheek as she studied him with a worried gaze. He opened the passenger door for her, and after she had slid in, he walked around the car and eased into the driver’s seat.
Just before he tried the ignition, they shared a quick, tense glance. They were deep in the forest, miles away from any kind of help, and they were both injured. If the Deceiver had found any time to disable the engine, they would be in a shitload of trouble.
She whispered, “Come on, start.”
He turned the key, and the car purred to life. The engine sounded as smooth as it had the last time he had tuned it. “Now we need to make tracks,” he said. “We’ve miles to go before we sleep.”
“Miles to go before I sleep,” she said, her voice slow and tired. “That was a Robert Frost poem, right? Some poet wrote that, anyway.”
He shook his head and wished he hadn’t, because it made his head throb worse than before. His heart beat in heavy, hard slugs, and his mouth felt hot and dry. “Whoever it was, I’ve got a bone to pick with him.”
“At least we’re alive and together,” she pointed out.
He shifted the car in gear and pulled onto the gravel drive. “And at least we get another day or two. And maybe more.” If he had anything to say about it, they would have a hell of a lot more.
“That’s a veritable wealth of minutes,” she said.
She echoed what they had said to each other last night, in the intimacy of tangled sheets, as the firelight died and rising darkness conquered the room.
Despite the seriousness of their situation, one corner of his mouth lifted. He said, “And that’s a staggering fortune in seconds.”
“Hey.” She flicked his arm lightly with her fingers. “You never did steal any flowers for me, you know.”
It had been his final promise to her nine hundred years ago, when they had last met, in other bodies and other, long- ago lives. He would steal flowers for her in the spring. She would learn how to milk a cow, and they would make love all winter long, at his country home outside of Florence in Italy.
They had never gotten the chance to do any of it. They had both died a few moments later.
He set the memory aside. That tragedy had happened a long time ago. Now they had found each other again, and he would be damned before he let any of this slip away.
He gave her a smile. “I’m with a woman who is developing a memory like a steel trap. I’ll have to get right on that.”
Her lips curved in response, although it didn’t banish the worried expression in her gaze. “I’ll hold you to it.”
He had to drive south to connect with a road that would take them back east toward U.S. 131. Even though they traveled on two-lane country roads and there was no other vehicle in sight, he still took no chances and pulled the car to a sedate halt at a stop sign. The last thing they needed was to call attention to themselves.
As the car rolled to a stop, the morning sun spilled at a slant through the driver’s window, stronger than ever as it hit him in the eyes. The light, heavy and gold, blinded him.
He disconnected from his body again.
The falling light.
He and his mate lived in a city topped with graceful white spires. Their sky was crowned with two suns, and the falling light turned their days endless and golden. They were creatures of power and fire, born at the same moment and destined to journey through life together.
She stood tall and slender, and her large, silver eyes were filled with the beauty and mystery of her soul. That mystery called to him. He could empathize with her but never truly fully understand her. The colors of her emotions were like a symphony. She was as fierce in her devotion to her healing as he was to his warrior nature. The rightness of that, the completeness, balanced and sustained him.
Their people did not die of old age. They did not know death, unless it happened by accident, through illness or by war.
Or until a criminal brought it to their city. He murdered innocents who stood in the way of his crimes before he was captured and imprisoned.
And then escaped.
When the call came to find those who would go in pursuit of the criminal, Michael didn’t hesitate to approach his mate about volunteering.
Are you sure?
If we go, we can never return home.
The details of the transmigration spell had been explained meticulously to them. They would die. Their souls would leave their world, and they would have to transform in order to travel to an entirely new, strange place.
The spell was the only way they could reach the other world where the Deceiver had fled. There could be no return. If they chose to transform, they would literally no longer be the same creatures, while all the alchemy that made such an extreme journey possible would remain on their home world.
Still, the Deceiver must be stopped.
It is worth the price
, he said.
At the time, he could not know that they would keep paying and paying.
“Michael,” Mary said.
As he blinked the sun out of his eyes, he got the impression that she had called his name more than once. They still sat at the stop sign of an empty intersection, the car idling quietly.
A tight band circled his wrist. He looked down. She had taken hold of his arm in a strong grip.
Mary’s expression was tight. “You blacked out.”
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “Not quite. I had a memory resurface, that’s all. It’s okay, I’m all right.”
He could tell by the doubt in her eyes that she didn’t quite believe him, but there was nothing she could do. They didn’t have any other choice. They had to get moving.
“Did you remember anything important?”
He smiled a little. “I remembered what you looked like a long time ago.”
Her tight grip relaxed. “Promise me that you’ll pull over if you have to.”
With obvious reluctance she let go of him to settle back into her seat and close her eyes. He found his sunglasses tucked in the glove compartment of the dashboard. He slipped them on, blocking out the sun and the details of the events that had happened so long ago.
The past was no longer relevant. Their future was uncertain at best. The present was all they had.
It was time to make the most of it.
Accelerating gently, he turned onto the intersecting road. They traveled east until they reached the highway. Then they turned north.
They had to join Astra and combine their strength before the Deceiver got the chance to attack them again.
Then finally, finally, they would take down that bastard once and for all.
• • •
ALL TOO AWARE
of Michael’s injuries and his grim, dogged endurance, Mary did as he directed and focused on healing her own gunshot wound so that she would be able to help him and take over driving. She was tired and in pain, and not thinking as clearly as she would have liked, so she fumbled the job at first.